Law students prefer to be silent about their depression, alcohol and drug use: Study

Law students prefer to be silent about their depression, alcohol and drug use: Study

The substance abuse problem has acquired the status of an epidemic in the United States, and no section of the society is untouched by it, not even the highly qualified professionals. According to a study published in the Bar Examiner magazine in December 2015, law students suffering from an addiction and/or a mental illness are reluctant to make their problem public, fearing they might lose the right to practice law later.

The study conducted by a law professor, a dean of law students, and the programming director of a nonprofit focused on lawyers’ mental health found that the fear transformed the issue into a two-pronged problem because apart from hiding their complication, they continue to live with it and not seek professional help. “Students who probably need to seek help are profoundly reluctant to, because they don’t perceive seeking help as being beneficial to their bar admission process,” said Jerome Organ, a law professor at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota and an author of the report.

Over 60 percent of students said they didn’t seek help for their drugs or alcohol abuse as it would have endangered their career prospects, and only 4 percent said they took professional help.

According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD), more than 23 million people over the age of 12 are addicted to alcohol and other drugs.

From February to May 2014, over 3,300 law students from 15 law schools were surveyed about their drinking, drug use, and mental health. Of them, 22 percent revealed that they were into binge drinking twice or more in the previous two weeks. The study found that over one fourth had received at least one diagnosis of “depression, anxiety, eating disorders, psychosis, personality disorder, and/or substance use disorder.” The researchers found that 17 percent of respondents tested positive for depression, said a report in bloomberg.com.

It is because of the stigma attached to the issue that lawyers continue to live with depression silently. “Lawyers are 3.6 times more likely to suffer from depression than non-lawyers,” legaleasesolutions.com reported citing Dave Nee Foundation.

According to a bostonglobe.com report, Organ suggested that untreated addiction or depression in lawyers could affect their ability to serve clients. “If I am dealing with mental health issues that are untreated, and I am not taking care of myself, I’m probably not going to be able to take care of someone else well.”

Mental health is a grave issue today. The State of Mental Health in America 2016 report by Mental Health America (MHA) reveals that an estimated 42.5 million Americans experienced some form of mental health issue in 2015.

The fact that law students find it proper to hide their addictions and depression is that before getting registered with the bar, students have to qualify a “character and fitness” screening, in which officials screen their personal histories as they do want to take in those “who are too morally compromised to serve clients.”  The effort of the law schools to convince students that they will not be affected if they admit about their suffering has not yield any result, the report said.

“While in law school, students are getting messages indicating that seeking help may be problematic for their professional careers,” the authors wrote.

The first step to treatment of addiction and depression is accepting the problem. If you or your loved one is battling depression or any other related problem, call the Depression Treatment Helpline at 866-619-7729 to seek guidance from our representatives who can refer you to the best remedies available.