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Wellbeing: Take charge of your health

Every Issue

Cite as: December 2015 89 (12) LIJ, p.97

Lawyers need to get ahead of the dangers of depression

The debilitating and crippling nature of depression, which can and does manifest itself partly as a result of the culture and environment of the legal profession, is a trauma that I would never wish on anybody.

The Wellness Doctrines for Law Students and Young Lawyers is a self-help guide for legal professionals to manage and combat issues of psychological distress, anxiety and depression in the early years of their educational and vocational experience in law. The book aims to equip young lawyers with the practical tools and knowledge necessary to help not only themselves, but those around them.

While much has been done over the past decade to raise awareness of the prevalence, causes and effects of mental illnesses such as depression, there is a great need to also inform legal professionals, as best we can, about what they can be doing to ensure their own health and wellbeing. That is, the conversation needs to continue so that a respondent knows how best to deal with issues if and when they arise, once they are aware of those dangers.

Law is – at its core – an altruistic profession. Lawyers serve the community around them through the pursuit of equity and justice, and practise with a strict adherence to procedures and precedence so that our society may continue to function.

But the legal profession has higher rates of mental disorder than most if not all other professions. One could argue that you cannot be a successful lawyer without first having consideration for self.

This book showcases interviews with almost 50 legal professionals – judges, academics, managing partners, senior and junior solicitors, and current students – about their experiences with depression (if applicable), what they have seen in their friends and colleagues, what works and doesn’t work, and how you can be the best legal professional you can possibly be.

The Wellness Doctrines recommends that lawyers consider the following:

Proactivity over reactivity young legal professionals should always take steps to proactively look after their health and wellbeing rather than simply reacting to a situation if and when it occurs.

You are not alone – there are many legal professionals who have experienced what you may currently be going through. There is no shame in what you are experiencing and you can learn from the journey of others in order to supplement your own recovery.

You are a person first and a lawyer second you must first be a healthy and happy person if you are going to be the most productive, successful legal professional you can possibly be. The latter cannot exist without the former.

  • When it comes to mental health, be proactive.
  • You are not alone and there is no shame in how you feel.
  • To be successful, you must be happy and healthy.
  • Jerome Doraisamy is a lawyer who has worked in commercial practice, academic research and government. He suffered from severe clinical depression during an 18-month period from 2011. The Wellness Doctrines is his first book.


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