Mental Health, Wellness, and Compassion.

Author:Blackwell, Don
Position:Letters - Letter to the editor

Maybe it takes getting old to see the picture as clearly as it's becoming to me. Maybe it takes 34 years of meals, cups of stale coffee, and late nights shared with colleagues and "adversaries" in small-town dives across the country to gain perspective. Or maybe it takes the tragic suicides of two shining lights in our profession this past summer--men who, by all outward appearances, "had it all" both personally and professionally--to bring the issue into stark focus. I'm not entirely sure why I feel compelled to write this letter; I only know that I do.

For at least the past 10 years, bar associations, committees, courts, commentators, and legal educators have issued a clarion call for greater "civility" in our profession. In the process, lots of ink has been spilled and countless hours have been devoted to articulating rules and guidelines aimed at minimizing, if not eliminating behaviors that, at best, could be characterized as boorish and, at worse, disgraceful. The resulting creeds, codes, initiatives, and administrative orders are highly commendable and, one would like to think, have had some impact on the way we as lawyers behave. However, I believe we owe ourselves and each other more. I believe we're better than the bare minimum when it comes to how we conduct ourselves and our level of concern for each other's well-being.

Simply put, I believe it's time we move beyond mere civility and fully embrace our shared humanity. It's time we act in a manner consistent with the inescapable reality that we are human beings, mothers, fathers, spouses, partners, siblings, friends, etc., first and lawyers a distant second. It's time we stop shying away from the truth: That, while we put on a brave face in the morning, at the end of the day, we are all fragile and flawed. We bleed just like the next person. We struggle, get depressed, and we feel anxious. We suffer from addictions. We have hard days--lots of them. We are over-stressed. And, sometimes, we need help. We need patience, empathy, and understanding. We need each other. Breathing that in and making it the touchstone for how we conduct ourselves is where real change resides.

I applaud the Journal for devoting its January issue to shining a bright light on our profession's darkest secrets. But, winning the battle against the insidious monster that is mental illness depends on each of us. If you know a colleague who's struggling, take a moment to let them know you're in their corner. If...

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