“I don’t need this book. I’m perfectly healthy and happy. Depression is something that only happens to other people.“
This comment, or some variation on it, is a response that I not only anticipate, but expect, to receive from a number of legal professionals. Whether they be law students or senior solicitors, there are those within the profession who will dismiss this book, and the larger issues surrounding depression in law, as being something that doesn’t affect them.
Of course, the majority of law students and lawyers will not suffer crippling depression in the same manner that others such as myself have done. But I believe that every legal professional needs to appreciate that, by virtue of their chosen vocation, they are – statistically speaking – more likely to suffer some degree of psychological distress, anxiety or depression. This can range from prolonged periods of stress or unrest, all the way through to suicidal tendencies.
It therefore becomes reasonable, to my way of thinking, to suggest that said legal professionals should be proactive in managing their health and wellbeing (in the personal and professional lives) rather than simply to a situation if and when it occurs. This is what Dr Fisher, the head of psychiatry and psychology at St Vincent’s in Sydney, refers to as “primary prevention”.
There is another reason to take charge of your own situation from the get-go: it gives you a much greater chance of being a productive, successful legal professional. If you are a mindful, well-rounded, balanced individual with consciousness for your sense of self, you can drastically reduce the likelihood that you will become overwhelmed, fatigued, stressed and ultimately burned out.
As legal professionals, we are – generally speaking – inherently competitive. As creatures that strive to achieve and be the best at what we do, it seems a logical step forward to do all you can to be that productive, successful individual. For if you are that person, you are much better placed to achieve what you set out to do.
Without question, you can still attain your goals after whatever hurdles life throws your way, and you can still break down even after implementing preventative measures for your health and wellbeing. But I want to advocate, both here and in the book, the idea that you put into place good habits from an early stage. Ensuring that a balanced, holistic lifestyle (in whatever format that might be for you) is a much easier task than trying to change when you are older and stuck in your ways.
Proactivity is so much more preferable than reactivity. It can be the differential in your life that propels you to being the person and professional that you not only want to be, but deserve to be.