Jul 31

We all feel fluctuations in our moods (from elation to deep sadness). Some people feel this range of emotions to a lesser degree (find it hard to feel intense emotions) while others feel it to a greater degree (find it hard not to feel intense emotions). A common question we get is, “How can you tell the difference between a low mood and something more serious like depression?”.

While there is no magic to telling the difference between low mood and depression (people’s experiences exist on a continuum), there are some helpful guideposts to direct you toward solutions. I discuss a few of these guideposts in a recent podcast episode of the State Bar of Michigan: On Balance Podcast hosted by JoAnn Hathaway and Tish Vincent. In this episode we discussed the topic of Depression in the Legal Industry.

A recent study on lawyer well-being found that practicing lawyers have a rate of depression that is 4 times higher than the general population. Not to oversimplify things, but law is stressful, and no one is immune from the effects of stress.

Whether you address feelings of depression through professional supports or not, the most important thing is to evaluate whether your technique is working. If it is not, be open to evaluating other methods that might be more effective. Depression is a treatable condition. Don’t put it off.

In September, Dr. Jeff Fortgang, my colleague and co-author of The Full Weight of the Law: How Legal Professionals Can Recognize and Rebound from Depression (published by the ABA and available in our lending library), and I will offer a session together at the National Conference for Lawyer Assistance Programs in Charleston, SC.

Jeff put together a preliminary survey in hopes that those who have dealt with such issues may provide input that we can share with our audience. A summary will also be provided to survey participants upon request. Identifying obstacles in the legal profession to recognizing and addressing mood problems (depression or bipolar disorder) is critical to informing individuals about their options and creating a healthier professional culture.

The survey is anonymous, but provides a way for you to optionally receive a copy of our findings. Survey Monkey estimates that it will take you 8 minutes to respond to these questions.

TAKE THE SURVEY HERE if you are a lawyer or law student and have experienced depression or bipolar disorder. To those who have experienced depression and/or bipolar disorder and who choose to participate, our sincere thanks. Feel free to email drjeff@lclma.org with any comments that don’t belong on the survey.


Shawn Healy, Ph.D.



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