An Underlying Stigma
Just when it didn’t look like law school news could be any more depressing, this gem came out at the beginning of the week. A new paper being released by the Journal of Legal Education highlights the importance of preparing law students for the challenges faced as an attorney—including mental illness and depression. This is particularly pertinent with the recent homicide/suicide of a Vermont Law School student.
The author, Brian Clarke, is a professor at Charlotte School of Law and Washington & Lee School of Law. In the report, Clarke explains how and why he “comes out” to his students each semester about his struggle with mental illness as a practicing attorney. Clarke opens up about the stresses of the legal profession, his personal struggle, and strategies for overcoming mental illness while still practicing law.
Clarke also advocates informing current law students about mental illness and removing the stigma of mental illness. According to Clarke, this starts in the classrooms of law schools around the nation. And, you know, Clarke just might be on to something.
Reports came out last January of the high amount of attorneys suffering from depression and suicide. The legal profession has the fourth highest amount of practitioners committing suicide (behind multiple health professions). While many law schools provide mental health programs, Clarke argues they are not personal enough and students cannot really connect with them.
The reality is, mental illness comes from the brain. There is a continuing stigma against mental illness because it’s seen as a sign of “weakness.” It is exactly why middle-aged men have the highest suicide rates now. They are not supposed to show weakness. But it is a chemical imbalance in the brain. Not weakness. And it is OK. Law schools, law firms and, well, everyone should take this seriously and advocate for better mental illness training and help remove these stigmas.
Source: Wall Street Journal
Source: Law Times News
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