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Do Lawyers Have More Mental Health Problems Than Other Professions?

published April 14, 2009

By CEO and Founder - BCG Attorney Search left
( 61 votes, average: 4.2 out of 5)
What do you think about this article? Rate it using the stars above and let us know what you think in the comments below.
Benjamin Sells spoke to an audience of lawyers reporting the facts about depression and mental health problems in the legal profession during which he told them:
 
  • ''One in four lawyers suffer from elevated feelings of psychological distress. Highest on the list of complaints are interpersonal feelings of inadequacy and inferiority, followed closely by anxiety, social alienation, isolation, and depression.
  • Out of 105 occupations surveyed, lawyers rank first in experiencing depression.
  • Among male lawyers, 28 percent said they were dissatisfied with their work while 41 percent of female lawyers said they were dissatisfied — both numbers are roughly double since those reported in 1984.
  • A disproportionate number of lawyers commit suicide, often at an age when they would be expected to be most socially productive.
  • Substance abuse is a factor in up to 80 percent of all disciplinary complaints.''1

After the speech a lawyer approached Sells with a question, ''you know, having one out of four lawyers depressed really isn't all that bad. I mean that's probably about the proportion for everybody, right?''2 Sells felt like the man's question represented the legal profession's thinking about depression and other mental illnesses. Really, the legal profession can't be worse than everybody else, right? Yes, the legal profession is worse, when out of most occupations, lawyers rank higher in depression. The bar has realized that there is a drug problem and the bar provided a way for its members to get help. So Sells asks why can't the Bar spend a little more money to expand help to deal with depression. After all, most of society has accepted the treatment of mental health problems as being appropriate.


Sells thinks that with the lawyer bashing that goes on, the profession is hesitant to face up to these problems within their ranks. Nevertheless, something needs to be done to dispel the belief among lawyers that seeking help can be stigmatizing.

Even though the bar has not invested in a program to offer treatment to depressed lawyers, there is help available elsewhere if the feeling of reproach for seeking help can be overcome. Freud (Father of psychoanalysis) often treated his patients in secret when psychoanalysis was a social taboo. We have come a long way from that old Victorian judgment.

In Conclusion, Sells says there is a lot more research that needs to be done to face the problem of depression in the legal profession. Therapists need to do more research to identify the factors of the work that cause more depression for lawyers. The Bar needs to look into the possibilities of adding on another helping branch to their drug program for depression. And most important, the negative implication of seeking help for depression needs to be resolved.

Resources:
1 Sells, Benjamin, 'Facing the truth about Depression in the Profession', March 1, 1995., Florida Bar News.
2 Sells, Benjamin, 'Facing the truth about Depression in the Profession', March 1, 1995., Florida Bar News.

Alternative Summary

Harrison is the founder of BCG Attorney Search and several companies in the legal employment space that collectively gets thousands of attorneys jobs each year. Harrison’s writings about attorney careers and placement attract millions of reads each year. Harrison is widely considered the most successful recruiter in the United States and personally places multiple attorneys most weeks. His articles on legal search and placement are read by attorneys, law students and others millions of times per year.

More about Harrison

About LawCrossing

LawCrossing has received tens of thousands of attorneys jobs and has been the leading legal job board in the United States for almost two decades. LawCrossing helps attorneys dramatically improve their careers by locating every legal job opening in the market. Unlike other job sites, LawCrossing consolidates every job in the legal market and posts jobs regardless of whether or not an employer is paying. LawCrossing takes your legal career seriously and understands the legal profession. For more information, please visit www.LawCrossing.com.
( 61 votes, average: 4.2 out of 5)
What do you think about this article? Rate it using the stars above and let us know what you think in the comments below.

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