Lawyers: Good Mental Health

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I am going to write about Depression. If you are thinking about stopping reading; please don’t. Please do me the courtesy of reading on. I am writing about it to raise awareness, tackle the stigma and throw out a lifeline for those who may be suffering.

Normally I write about issues or ideas that affect in-house lawyers in how they do business. I hope that you find those posts helpful and thought provoking.  This post is more important than that.

I have been very successful in my career. I have worked on huge, innovative, truly global projects for major organisations. I have written a book, spoken, contributed articles and been involved in many debates that have stirred up the world of the in-house lawyer. I did all of that whilst suffering for 20 years from undiagnosed depression and anxiety. Last year, I was so unwell that I had to give up my corporate career after a prolonged period of serious illness.

I was lucky. I had excellent medical insurance, which ensured first class treatment. I have a loving family who, with friends, supported me at a desperate time. I am now fully recovered and working again.

Others are not so lucky.

Mental illness affects about 1 in 4 of us in our lives. It is misunderstood and stigmatised. Lawyers are particularly susceptible given a combination of the hours we work, our perfectionist tendencies, a desire to serve others and need to show strength to help others who are going through difficult times.

Inside our heads, there is a different world. A world of insecurity, doubt , fear about the future and sadness at the past. Escape is often by way of addiction: drink, drugs, shopping, eating etc. The long term harm of anxiety alone can manifest itself in the form of strokes, heart disease and, some studies suggest, cancer. In the short term, it may result in behaviours such as withdrawal from relationships, crippling inertia, paranoia, loss of confidence and hope. It is not a loss of your grasp of reality; it is your reality. Katherine Welby explains the feelings well (http://tinyurl.com/k285g5k)

Every mentally ill person is different and there is no single route to recovery. If you are struggling, you are not alone. You must seek help. Life should be happy and fulfilling. If you are ill, with the right help, you can return to a happy, balanced life. If you know someone who may be in need of help, be sympathetic and learn about their illness. In that way, you can learn how to best help them.

Those of us who have suffered from mental illness are not weak people. We do not lack character. We are not carpet chewers or any of those other stereotypes. We are ordinary people, good colleagues and great friends. I am proud to speak out on this issue.

I support the Time for Change Campaign (http://tinyurl.com/owvgjzx).

Thank you for reading. In the words of Frasier Crane “I wish you good mental health”.

Sources for help in the UK

Mind – A mental health charity – http://www.mind.org.uk

Depression Alliance – Support for those with depression – http://www.depressionalliance.org

Time to Change – A campaign to raise awareness. Please sign the pledge if you support what I have written above. http://www.time-to-change.org.uk


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