Did you know that students entering law school have same rate of depression as the general population (approximately 7%), but by the time they finish their first year of law school 34% experience depression? This statistic is from a new book from the ABA, The Full Weight of the Law: How Legal Professionals Can Recognize and Rebound from Depression.
I'm no expert, but that statistic indicates something is wrong. It is well documented that lawyers suffer from depression and problems related to stress and depression at rates greater than the general public.
A recent column in the Wall Street Journal by Dr. Stephen Ilardi, Why Personal Tech Is Depressing, noted that the U.S. is the most technologically developed country and the most depressed. Three in 10 Americans will battle depressive illness in their lifetimes, an estimated ten-fold increase since WWII. Today's personal technology can be quite isolating, notes Dr. Ilardi. I don't have access to the full WSJ article, but here is a blog post about the article containing some of its suggestions.
The Economist just published a feature Teenagers are Growing More Anxious and Depressed - Could they hold the culprit in their hands? Lawyers are not teenagers, but many seem just as attached to their smart phones. Many, if not most, lawyers have had the experience of being in a really good mood--until they check their email with their smart phone and find one of those emails.
I do think there is something to smart phones and social media having a negative impact on the lives of frequent users. Each of us might wonder just how many opportunities we have missed out on while buried in our phones. Maybe it was not seeing an old law school chum in the courthouse hallway or wasting just enough time on the phone that you decided not to go out and participate in some activity.
I recently heard Brian Cuban, author of The Addicted Lawyer, tell his story at the OBA Annual meeting. His presentation was interesting and compelling. I have not yet read his book, but I am certain it is fascinating and helpful.
It is the holiday season and it is good to remember that many people struggle with negative emotions during the holiday season and almost everyone will experience some holiday stress. Knowing others deal with similar issues can bring some comfort. But lawyers are very independent and sometimes do not ask for help when they need it for fear it could be seen as sign of weakness. Most bar associations and law societies have lawyer assistance programs available to help. So this holiday season, try to spend less time staring at the phone in your hand and more time interacting in person with others. And, if you need help, or know someone who may need help, don't hesitate to reach out. That could be the best gift you can give a loved one, a friend, a colleague or yourself.