Depression: A World Epidemic
Depression is characterized by a combination of symptoms that interfere with a person’s ability to work, sleep, eat, and enjoy activities that were once pleasurable. Depression develops from a complex interplay of genes, neurochemistry, emotional history, environment, and personality.
The World Health Organization projects that by 2020, depression will become the world’s second most devastating illness, after heart disease. Currently, one in five Americans will experience major depression in their lifetime, and one in ten suffers from recurring episodes of major depression.
Among lawyers and judges, the rate of depression is twice that of the general population. When adjusted for socioeconomic factors, the rate for legal professionals tops the list of 104 occupations for symptoms of major depressive disorders.
Most (80 percent) of persons who suffer from depression either do not seek treatment or drop out shortly after initiating treatment. This is particularly tragic given that 80% of those treated for depression show improvement within four to six weeks of beginning medication, psychotherapy, support group participation, or a combination of treatments.
Symptoms of Depression
If you or someone you care about has experienced five or more of the following symptoms for a period of two weeks or longer, the most likely cause is depression and help from a licensed mental health professional should be sought. (Call NMJLAP for a referral: 800-860-4914). If you answered yes to question 10, you should seek help immediately, regardless of your answers to the other questions.
- A change in appetite (eating too much or too little)
- Problems with sleep (insomnia or sleeping more than usual)
- A loss of interest or pleasures (neglecting hobbies, social withdrawal)
- Increased agitation or restlessness
- Slowed speech, monotonous speech, slow body movements, or overall
decrease in energy level
- A sense of worthlessness or feelings of inadequacy, and other forms of negative thinking, including inappropriate guilt
- Difficulty concentrating, slow thinking, indecisiveness
- Memory difficulty and easy distraction
- Unexplained fatigue
- Recurring thoughts of death and/or suicide
What to Do when Someone is Depressed
Share your observations and concern with your friend/colleague.
Many people don’t seek help because they don’t recognize they are
By showing your friendship and concern, you can encourage the person to talk with NMJLAP or another mental health professional about getting treatment.
Encourage or help the individual make an appointment and offer to accompany him/her to the first visit.
Encourage the person to stay with treatment until the symptoms abate.
Approximately 80% of people will begin to experience improvement in 4-6 weeks, whether they are utilizing medication and/or psychotherapy.
Remind the individual that it takes time to recover — after all, depression didn’t occur overnight either.
Encourage continued communication with their doctor about treatment options if no improvement occurs.
Engage in conversation and fellowship and LISTEN.
- Don’t disparage feelings; point out realities and offer hope.
Invite the individual for walks, outings, the movies, and other activities.
Encourage participation in an activity that once gave pleasure: hobbies, sports, religious or cultural activities.
Take remarks about suicide seriously, do not ignore them, and don’t agree to keep them confidential. If they are reluctant to discuss these thoughts with their therapist or doctor, you need to make the report on their behalf.
"Practicing from the Shadows: Depression and the Legal Profession”
This video, produced by the Texas Lawyers Assistance Program and featuring a few members of the Texas Bar, examines why lawyers suffer from such a high rate of depression, describes the symptoms of severe depression, and examines the modes of effective treatment.
Lawyers with Depression: A website for lawyers started by a lawyer who struggled with depression.
Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance: Expansive online network with educational materials, referral sources, online support groups, clinical trials information, and more.
National Depression Screening: Online assessment tool for depression.
CNN examines a disturbing trend in lawyer suicides
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK