Your mental health matters
I found myself at a party one evening speaking to a friend’s dad who is a barrister. I told him of my interests and explained that someone recommended I go for the bar as soon as I was able to do so.
He looked at me carefully, and told me the story of how it’s customary that upon the death of a barrister a notice is published about their life, and their cause of death. He then went on to tell me that a notice appeared one day in the hallway about a barrister’s passing. She was in her late 20s. He then said, “but there was no explanation for her passing”. He looked at me gravely, and I returned his gaze with unease.
It’s well known that the legal profession is a high-risk industry for mental illness. In the 2009 Courting the Blues study conducted by the Brain & Mind Research Institute at the University of Sydney, 52.2% of law students, solicitors and barristers reported that they had experienced depression, and 65.3% said that someone close to them had experienced depression.
I could go on for pages about what causes this and what the studies have found, but ultimately, if we are struggling, what can we do to make sure we are looking after ourselves?
Seek Professional Help
Whether you seek counselling or psychiatric assistance, having someone to talk to about what’s going on in your life and the stressors that are catalysing these issues is extremely beneficial.
Let’s face it - trying to be strong when you’re battling mental health problems is a titanic struggle. You may be able to handle it for a while, but eventually something’s got to give. Being publicly productive and privately destructive can only last so long.
It is imperative that you seek help if you are experiencing symptoms associated with anxiety and depression. If you’re unsure if this might be you, visit beyondblue’s Anxiety and Depression Checklist. This online scale possibly saved my law school friend’s life: upon seeing the results, my friend admitted the problem to their family and sought help. They have never looked back.
Here are some useful links to mental health information and services in Australia that can assist:
beyondblue's K-10 Checklist (Kessler Psychological Distress Scale)
The beyondblue website also has a lot of fantastic information and advice about depression and anxiety, and resources for family and friends.
It’s also worth checking out Headspace, the National Youth Mental Health Foundation
For some law-related reading, I recommend the US website Lawyers with Depression and this MyCase article on being a happy lawyer.
If you feel like you need immediate support, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or visit their website: lifeline.org.au.
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