Law Student’s Barriers to Getting Help for Depression

I am a 3L who has struggled with depression for years, though I have a difficult time admitting it. I sought therapy through my undergrad a few times, but that did not seem to help and I stopped. I tried last year to go through my law school’s related university’s health center, which including some talking and medicine, but I stopped that as well. I know that I need to seek help again in the future, but I’m not sure where to go at this point, particularly as my health insurance is through my parents (cheaper while in school) and I cannot discuss this with them (but they pay close attention to bills and our health insurance often sends them information instead of me (and vice versa) – not that my parents pry or such, but it is likely that they will find out about it and be concerned, so ask).

Do I have to disclose this on my MA bar application? If I do, does it become public record with the rest of the application? Is there any way to stop it from becoming public record?

Our understanding is that the Massachusetts bar application does not ask about mental health/treatment history (unlike some other states).  It is also our experience that, whenever the Board of Bar Examiners or the Board of Bar Overseers became aware that someone has a mood/behavior problem, their concern about it is largely to ascertain that the person has gotten or is getting appropriate treatment.  So there is no reason not to get the treatment you need.  (Whether it is a public record we don’t know, though we’ve never heard a client complaint about this – the BBE and SJC would be better sources for that question.)

It’s important that you seek assistance for your depression, not only to improve the quality of your life but to minimize the chances that it will affect your career.  To the extent that you have not latched onto treatment in the past (whether because of your own reticence, a therapist who was not a good match for you, medication that did not work for you, etc.), we would encourage you to come meet with us at LCL (confidentially, of course), and use us as your consultant and troubleshooting partner until you find a treatment approach that is helpful.  You need not limit yourself to services provided through your university’s counseling service.  If your health insurance is under your parents’ policy, it is quite possible that they could receive statements showing the name of a provider that you see – it’s worth calling the mental health number on your insurance card to ask about that.  If there is no way to prevent that relaying of information, then perhaps you and we can brainstorm ways to explain the treatment to them in such a way that it would not trigger undue worry for them.  Certainly, law school presents such a high level of stress that one can easily make the case that every law student would do well to get psychological support in balancing their personal needs with their academic demands.  At LCL, we provide evaluation and consultation, but not ongoing therapy – but at least for these services, we are free (supported by a small piece of Massachusetts lawyers’ annual license fee) and don’t submit claims to health insurance.

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