President's Message – April/May 2010
As we feel the cooling winds of autumn and come towards the end of the financial year we are faced with increasing pressures in the workplace and for law students, the pressures that accompany the end of semester exams and assessments. These periods of stress bring with them certain dangers in respect of your physical and mental health.
Last month, some of the largest law firms in the country launched a joint initiative, accompanied by an eye-opening DVD, called Resilience@Law. The DVD featured staff, and importantly some partners, of these firms, who had come face-to-face with depression, which is unfortunately one of the most prevalent of mental health issues faced by the legal profession. The purpose of the DVD was to expose the audience to real-life stories of people struggling to come to grips with pressures that are put on them at their work places and in their personal lives. It depicted people of high intelligence, great drive and seemingly boundless energy whose lives had been literally endangered by creeping and debilitating depression, but who were lucky enough to survive it to tell the tale. The lesson for us young practitioners is that this is an issue that can affect anyone, including the seemingly invincible superheroes amongst us.
New research shows that lawyers, more than members of any other profession or trade, are or will be affected by depression at some stage in the course of their careers. The rates are highest in the age bracket within which most of our members fall. It is for that reason that we will be working with a number of like-minded organisations to inform our members about the dangers of not responding to the early signs of depression and encouraging them to seek help at those vital early stages. This approach is confirmed by clinicians and mental health experts, who urge people who feel the onset of depression or depressive behaviour to seek help without delay.
I am cautiously optimistic that the profession has moved on from the time when depression was shunned and disregarded as something that did not exist, or something peripheral and unimportant. Initiatives such as Resilience@Law clearly indicate a move away from those days and into an era where younger members of the profession, as well as older ones, can seek help regarding their mental health issues in an environment of support, respect and understanding. At least that is how you should demand your workplace to be.
If you would like more information about depression, its symptoms and ways you can seek support in relation to it, go to the Mental Health and Wellbeing page on the Law Society Website. You will find there information about depression and how you can seek help for yourself, a colleague or a loved one.
If you have any other questions, please email me.
NSW Young Lawyers