It's Okay to Get Help for Mental Health: Breaking the Stigma
Maryt L Fredrickson, Ninth Judicial District Court Jackson, Wyoming
It is time to lift the social stigma on seeking help for mental health. It is no secret that lawyers have high rates of depression and high rates of substance abuse. According to a 2016 report sponsored by the American Bar Association (ABA) and the Betty Ford Foundation, 28% of practicing attorneys suffer depression; 19% suffer anxiety; and 21% exhibit alcohol dependence. Of those suffering from substance abuse, when asked why they did or did not seek treatment, "[t]he 2 most common barriers were ... not wanting others to find out they needed help and concerns regarding privacy or confidentiality"1
The ABAs Task Force on Lawyer Well-Being in 2017 identified ten barriers to seeking mental health. Social pressures related to mental health were five of those ten barriers: (1) failure to recognize symptoms;
(2) not knowing how to identify or access appropriate treatment or believing it to be a hassle to do so; (3) a culture's negative attitude about such conditions; (4) fear of adverse reactions by others whose opinions are important; (5) feeling ashamed; (6) viewing help-seeking as a sign of weakness, having a strong preference for self-reliance, and/or having a tendency toward perfectionism; (7) fear of career repercussions; (8) concerns about confidentiality; (9) uncertainty about the quality of organizationally-provided therapists or otherwise doubting that treatment will be effective; and (10) lack of time in busy schedules.2
The term "mental health" does not refer to merely schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Mental health also refers to depression, anxiety, and chronic stress. "Depression" refer to a spectrum of disorders, ranging from persistent depressive disorder (long-term depression lasting more than two years), post-partum depression, psychotic depression (depression combined with delusions), perinatal depression (experienced in the weeks prior to giving birth), and seasonal affective disorder (generally experienced in the winter)...