When I talk to non-lawyers about the high rate of lawyer depression, they seem incredulous and sometimes a bit peeved. I was at Starbucks last week. I was drinking my cup of steaming Joe when a neurosurgeon I knew walked in. He treats some of my personal injury clients and had testified in a couple of my trials over the years.
He asked how I was doing with helping depressed lawyers. “Good,” I said. “I get calls every week. It’s a huge problem in my profession.” He nodded like he got it, like he understood that such a demanding profession could trigger depression in so many of my colleagues. I thought he sympathized with their plight.
But then he looked me right in the eye and said, “You want something to really be depressed about, you should try being one of the poor people that walk into my clinic! There in lots of pain and often have lost their jobs because of it.”
Maybe you had to be there, but there was an undercurrent of sarcasm in his voice, as if to suggest that lawyers had NOTHING to be depressed about. Why should lawyers, with so much education, public respect and money, be depressed? People with real problems have a right to be depressed – not lawyers.
I was first saddened by his words – and then angry. Saddened by the ignorance of this highly educated man and angry because of the hurt both I and so many others have felt when hearing such bullshit – enough with this kind of talk, already; enough with the stigma.
Depression doesn’t care if you’re rich or poor, man or woman or a person with a few problems or with a lot. That’s because depression is a disease – and acomplicated one, at that. Like diabetes and heart disease, it doesn’t discriminate – it exacts a terrible emotional and physical toll on ALL of its victims. As such, all depression sufferers are worthy of our understanding and compassion.
This doctor wasn’t the first and won’t be the last person I hear this type of crap from. I know that. But it still hurts after all this time to hear it. And it still makes me angry.