How Depression Affects Legal Professionals

Having bad days or low moods are quite common symptoms of those who work in a fast-paced environment. However, experiencing one (or both) of these might often be a sign of mental health problems...

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Having bad days or low moods are quite common symptoms of those who work in a fast-paced environment.  However, experiencing one (or both) of these might often be a sign of mental health problems. Current research suggests that roughly three out of ten lawyers are suffering from depression and its causes during their career. This can manifest itself in the following ways:

  • The feeling of guilt
  • Sadness
  • Loss of interest or pleasure
  • Low self-worth
  • Hopelessness
  • Feeling anxious
  • Low self-esteem
  • Loss of sex drive or sexual problems
  • Not knowing what to do
  • Emotions taking control
  • Isolated and unable to relate to other people
  • Feelings of guilt and being hard on yourself
  • Difficulty thinking clearly or making decisions
  • No appetite and losing weight or eating too much
  • Difficulty sleeping

Why is depression such a problem in the legal profession?

The law is overwhelming complex nowadays. High expectations, growing competition, excessive client demands, and decreasing relationships with others due to busy schedules cause lawyers to become burnt out and dissatisfied, which lead to substance abuse and suicidal thoughts. Because of that, productivity at work is at risk and the decision-making process becomes challenging at times. The biggest hurdle for lawyers is to realize that they are, in fact, depressed. Lawyers are trained to see what is wrong and be rational and objective, which can create a pessimistic view. Also, it can be challenging for those who have suffered from depression from a long time to recognize it. The importance lies in getting in touch with their own feelings, rather than burying them. Due to unique personality traits, lawyers experience difficulties in asking for help. The combined false belief of this being a uniquely personal problem and the stigma surrounding mental illness makes it much more complicated for some. 

“Unfortunately, what makes for a good lawyer may make for an unhappy human being.” S. M Terrell.

The reluctance in seeking professional help for depression is a common symptom in lawyers. However, this article is not aiming to criticise everyone in the legal profession. It aims to encourage them to seek professional help, and to realise that they are human, just like everyone else. The fear surrounding any emotional struggle and the negative impact on one’s reputation can be more challenging than the depression itself. We need to remember that dealing with mental illness does not make anyone in the legal profession less strong or intelligent.

What can I do?

  1. Seek help. You cannot handle depression on your own. If you are still afraid of being labelled, please look at the LawCare phone line and speak to a specialist in your own space and time.
  2. Do not wait until the last minute. You don’t have to experience extreme symptoms to look for help; any signs that might indicate you are not well will help you to prevent further progression of this mental problem.
  3. Find professionals that you can trust. By working with an experienced and trusted specialist, you can overcome any difficulties in a more efficient time and manner.

It can sometimes be hard to explain your thoughts and feelings to others. However, leaving depression untreated can lead to many professional and personal complications. As a Process Coach, I will help you transform your negative thoughts and feelings into a more positive way of looking at the world, leading to a more fulfilled emotional state. You will notice a boost in energy and changes in your life rapidly. 

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