“You don’t look depressed” is something people often say to me.
And that’s probably true. I’m not really sure what a depressed person is supposed to look like. There were times when I couldn’t get out of bed and then there were times (thankfully due to the right medication and therapy) when I was doing great. It took a while to get there. Partially because I was undiagnosed for a long time.
But that’s the thing with depression and many other mental illnesses – they’re invisible. You may think you know everything about me from this blog or from your interactions with me, but you have no idea what it’s going on in my head or what I’m dealing with on any given day.
There are a lot of high-functioning people in the world who seem like they have it together who have mental health issues.
In fact did you know that one in four adults are battling some sort of mental health issue right now? Covid-19 has increased stress and anxiety levels for almost everyone.
In fact according to a recent study by The American Lawyer on mental health, 37% of attorneys and law firm staff said they felt depressed in 2020, an uptick of nearly 6 percentage points from last year; 71% said they have experienced anxiety, up 7 percentage points over the previous year.
Mental health struggles are common, and many of us are more at risk than we think.
With half of these conditions going undiagnosed, it’s alarming to know that many who are diagnosed seek professional help due to lack of awareness, fear of discrimination and self-stigma.
You never really know what someone is going through, which is why I always say kindness can go a very long way.
People often ask me what it would take for me to work at a law firm again – it’s all about finding the right environment. Part of my reluctance to do so is because at my last role, I had a mental health crisis and my law firm was not supportive of me.
This is why I am so passionate about ending the stigma of talking about mental health issues and that it’s okay to not be okay sometimes.
From my research and talking to ALM’s editor in chief Gina Passarella who spearheaded a series at the American Lawyer on this very topic, I know that many law firms big and small still have important work to do in supporting their employees who have mental health issues. (Also law firms – please don’t treat yourself staff members any differently than you do lawyers.)
May is Mental Health Awareness Month, which is why am writing this post.
I will be dedicating content here and on my blog to mental health resources during the month. I would strongly encourage you to consider writing a post about mental health awareness during the month of May. However if your firm does not truly support these kinds of initiatives, don’t do it.
if you are thinking about offering more resources for your employees do it today. They need it especially due to Covid. Set up a program at your firm about this topic. Whether it is through offering meditation, stress-relief or mindfulness courses, or sessions with a mental health professional who is available to answer or concerns that your people have.
Often times resources that are available to lawyers are not available to staff professionals, which needs to change as well. People like me who are on the administrative side don’t often get the same benefits as lawyers and we need to do something to ensure that there are equal resources for the professionals behind the scenes who aren’t necessarily billing but are doing amazing work to support the firm.
I also hope you will join me, Gina Passarella and other speakers TBD for a Women Who Wow discussion on this topic in May (more info to come).
Many people suffer in silence or don’t know how to get help.
Let’s raise awareness for mental health issues not just in May but all year long. Here are some resources to help.
Let’s better care for our emotional wellness, be more positive, kind and compassionate, acknowledge and support those who struggle with mental illness and help reduce the stigma around seeking help.