Lawyers, as we begin 2022, let’s take care of our mental health!

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I was impressed once again during the holidays with the fact that some people, and especially some lawyers, don’t enjoy “the most wonderful time of the year”, and I wanted to encourage everyone especially every lawyer who needs help to get help now.

You may have heard about a fellow lawyer in Lexington who committed suicide a few weeks ago, leaving three daughters to grieve his loss. We have all heard news stories of a low country lawyer who has fallen from grace in spectacular fashion with mental health playing a major part in his saga.

My church held a “Blue Christmas” service in early December. This service brought home to me the sorrowful point that many people are unusually sad during the holidays.

Many among us are suffering from the uncertainty and isolation caused by the COVID pandemic. Just when we were beginning to think things were getting much better on that front, we are now being warned about the dangers of the Omicron variant that has created a new surge.

I don’t often recommend books in this blog and especially not works of fiction, but I recently read a novel that handled the impact of COVID so well that I highly recommend it to you. Wish You Were Here, a 2021 novel by Jodi Picoult, gives voice to medical professionals through a New York doctor who works in an emergency department. As the author said in her afterword, we will never be able to thank these professionals for what they have done for us, for what they have seen and for what they have been through.

The book also gives voice to a COVID survivor who spent time on a ventilator. Through this character, we see the importance of some lessons COVID has taught us.

These lessons are particularly important to lawyers. Specifically, the things that are significant in life are not monetary, they are not about the next case or closing. They are not about work at all. COVID has taught us to appreciate the present moment, to appreciate the beauty of nature, and to hold our loved ones close. We must understand that at the end of our lives, our work will not be important at all, but our loved ones will.

We, as lawyers, are supposed to be problem solvers. We are supposed to be strong. We are not supposed to have problems. But lawyers do have mental health problems. I read one statistic that indicated lawyers are 3.6 times more likely to suffer from depression than non-lawyers.

In order to pass our “character and fitness” check to become lawyers and in order to keep our licenses for the long haul, we tend to hide our mental health problems. Having problems and hiding the problems can create perfect storms in our lives.

I encourage any lawyer who is particularly unhappy as the year begins to get help! Therapy is a good thing! You might begin by calling South Carolina Bar’s Lawyers Helping Lawyers toll free helpline at (866) 545-9590 or contact any Lawyers Helping Lawyers member directly. But begin somewhere! The resources are available, and they are helpful.  Please, please seek help if you need it. 

And, in the meantime, I wish for all of you a wonderful 2022!

We hope you have a wonderful holiday season!

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And if the holidays make you blue, please ask for help!

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Our office pledges to give our agents all the CLE they need free of charge, that is, if they are South Carolina practitioners and only practice real estate law. Don’t ask us for litigation education…we don’t know anything about litigation! We have an impressive calendar of webinars and “brunch and learns”, and we have one grand “annual seminar” where all of our agents are invited to one place to network, to be wined and dined by us, and to learn the latest and greatest issues affecting the practice of real estate law.

We typically hold this seminar in October or November, well before year-end. For 2018, we planned our grand finale in Myrtle Beach in early October, the Monday after the horrible flood that affected our coast and Pee Dee area.

The hotel kept telling us that Myrtle Beach was fine!  Our speakers flying in from other states would have no problem with air or ground transportation. Our agents, however, coming from all over South Carolina, would have been hard pressed to get to Myrtle Beach from the South because Georgetown was flooded or from the West or North, where the Pee Dee was almost entirely unpassable.

So, we punted!  We convinced the hotel to let us reschedule and had a great cocktail party on Sunday, December 16 and an all-day seminar on Monday, December 17. We were thrilled when our agents responded and attended one week prior to Christmas vacation. And we thoroughly enjoyed celebrating with the lawyers and their staff members who work with us all year long.

We were able to hug our agents and wish for them the best during the holiday season in person, which was great fun for us!

Why am I going on and on about seminars and lawyers and holidays?  I have been impressed this year with the fact that some people, and especially some lawyers, don’t enjoy this time of year, and I wanted to encourage everyone, especially, every lawyer, who needs help to get help now.

You may have read a recent heartbreaking news story in American Lawyer where a lawyer’s widow blamed “biglaw” for her husband’s suicide. She admitted that her husband had a deep, hereditary mental health disorder and lacked essential coping mechanisms. But she said she believed his high-pressure job and culture where it is shameful to ask for help, shameful to be vulnerable, and shameful not to be perfect, created a perfect storm.

And our church held a “Blue Christmas” service in early December. This service brought home to me the sad point that many people are unusually sad during the holidays.

This story and this service encouraged me to read statistics on lawyer suicide, and I learned that there is apparently an epidemic. In a period of 18 months in South Carolina, six lawyers committed suicide. We, as lawyers, are supposed to be problem solvers. We are supposed to be strong. We are not supposed to have problems. But lawyers do have these problems. I read one statistic that indicated lawyers are 3.6 times more likely to suffer from depression than non-lawyers.

In order to pass our “character and fitness” check to become lawyers and in order to keep our licenses for the long haul, we tend to hide our mental health problems. Having problems and hiding the problems can create perfect storms in our own lives.

I encourage any lawyer who is particularly unhappy this time of year to call South Carolina Bar’s Lawyers Helping Lawyers toll free helpline at (866) 545-9590 or contact any Lawyers Helping Lawyers member directly.

And I refer everyone to Stuart Mauney’s excellent article, “The Lawyers’ Epidemic: Depression, Suicide and Substance Abuse”, which is located on the Bar’s website. This article outlines the problem and the symptoms and explains how important asking for help can be. This article is valuable to all of us because if we don’t suffer ourselves, we probably know someone who does. I am going to keep a copy of it at my desk for future reference.

I wish for all of you very happy holidays and a happy, healthy and prosperous 2019!