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Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Robin Williams, Depression, and the Legal Profession

Yesterday, the world lost an incredible talent when Robin Williams took his own life. As many of my friends know, Robin Williams was my favorite comedian and I would often amuse baffle and disturb anybody willing to listen to my renditions of some of his routines.

Robin Williams's death has inspired an outpouring of tributes as well as a broad discussion of depression and suicide. Robin Williams suffered from depression, and his death reminds us of depression's insidious power of undercutting and ruining lives -- even if the outward demeanor of those affected suggests otherwise.

Depression is a particular problem for those in the legal profession. Earlier this year, the American Bar Association Journal reported that lawyers are 3.6 times more likely to suffer depression than nonlawyers, and that lawyers rank fourth in suicide rates by profession.

This problem is not new. This problem is not going away. And this is something that people in all levels of the legal profession -- students, lawyers, professors, and judges -- must bear in mind, discuss, and combat.

For a profound exploration of this issue, I recommend a series of posts by Brian Clarke at the Faculty Lounge from back in the spring. Clarke describes how depression pervades the legal profession and legal education. He then describes his own story of falling into the "hole" that is depression -- and how he found the support and resources to climb out of the hole. Finally, Clarke offers advice on how to broach the subject of depression and promote discussion of the topic. Those posts are available here, here, and here, and I strongly recommend that everybody read them in full. The American Bar Association also has resources for help on its Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs page.

Robin Williams's death is a tragedy. I can only hope that his legacy will be one of laughter, and one that inspires those who feel that all is lost to reach out and find the help they need.

UPDATE - 8/13/2014

Brian Clarke reacts to Robin Williams's suicide in this blog post at The Faculty Lounge.

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