Did you know that lawyers suffer from depression more often than the general public? But, for many of us, our mental health can be a difficult thing to talk about.
“The stigma is huge with mental illness and depression in this country. …You’re supposed to be a problem solver, you’re supposed to be superman or superwoman. You’re not supposed to have problems,” said Dan Lukasik, about the perception of mental illness and depression. Lukasik is a current litigator and managing partner, founded Lawyers with Depression.
The following statistics show just how much mental illness and depression affects lawyers:
Lawyers are the most frequently depressed occupational group in the US;
Lawyers are 3.6 times more likely to suffer from depression than non-lawyers;
25% of lawyers exhibit symptoms of anxiety, the close cousin of depression;
Lawyers are 4th on the list of professions whose members are most likely to commit suicide.
Lukasik said, “The general public already has a problem with lawyers and when I started to talk about this problem, they [general public] didn’t want to hear it. They thought, ‘a person who makes a lot of money and has this job should not be having this problem.’”
The idea that lawyers shouldn’t have problems increases the sense of isolation for those suffering from this debilitating disorder. People with depression often feel emotionally numb, empty and completely alone, even when surrounded by other people. Many lawyers who struggle with depression suffer in silence so as not to appear weak to colleagues. They are afraid others will judge them.
Often the only people who understand are those who struggle with depression as well. Lukasik also highlights the role a support group can play in helping treat depression.
“Being with others is even more critical when you’re in pain. You need to communicate your distress and know that your ‘tribe’ will listen and care,” he emphasizes. Lukasik has belonged to a depression support group for the past seven years—the group’s support helped him tremendously in combatting loneliness. The group has created a safe place for him to share his story with others who will understand and offer emotional support, hope and comfort.
He acknowledges the resistance to joining a support group as people often feel tired and hopeless, believing that nothing will help. When helping other lawyers with depression, he acknowledges this resistance, but encourages them “to meet this resistance and push forward because as depression expert Richard O’Connor, Ph.D. once told me, ‘Depression isn’t your fault. But it is your responsibility to get better.’ And a support group, together with treatment, is one of the best ways for you to take responsibility for getting and staying better.”
So, take a small step. Find a support group that will help you through.
For D.C. Bar Members: The D.C. Bar Lawyer Assistance Program (LAP) has a free and confidential monthly mental health support group. It is a safe and confidential place for D.C. Bar members to exchange ideas about coping with anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues.
If you would like to register or obtain more information about the group or other services please contact LAP at 202-347-3131 or [email protected]