For far too many, suffering from mental health issues is a stigma that they hide in shame, in fear of being perceived as weak. When a successful lawyer at a prominent law firm opened up about his struggles with depression, he was surprised to learn that he had a much broader support system than he could have imagined.
Mark Goldstein, counsel at a prominent law firm, knew something was wrong for years. In 2017, he was diagnosed with anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder and severe depression. Still, Goldstein kept his diagnosis a secret from his colleagues, afraid that his mental health issues would negatively affect the career he had worked hard to build. Bust Goldstein reached a critical point where he realized that he simply could not function to execute his many responsibilities. At that point, Goldstein informed his firm that he was taking a leave of absence to undergo treatment.
To his surprise, the firm was more than understanding, urging Goldstein to take all the time he needed to recover. When he returned to his job 11 weeks later, he was welcomed back with open arms and the genuine support of other firm employees.
Not surprisingly, depression is not uncommon in the legal profession. Yet, much like Goldstein, many attorneys choose to suffer in silence, afraid of being “labeled” as fragile and ineffective in a high-stakes occupation. However, Goldstein has sound advice for anyone who is suffering from any type of mental illness.
First, he advises, come clean about what you’re dealing with, whether it’s to a trusted colleague, a Human Resources representative or a superior. Find someone who will help guide you to available resources. Without taking this important step, it’s highly unlikely that anyone will achieve their goals – professional and personal – which could worsen the effects of mental illness.
Also, contact a medical health professional who will be most qualified to help you adopt the most effective treatment, whether it’s therapy, medication or a combination of both. As Goldstein noted, once he began receiving treatment for his mental health struggles, he had more clarity and learned that people were actually sensitive to his situation, rather than judging him negatively for it, as he initially feared. In fact, in the year since Goldstein opened up about his depression, he discovered that far more people suffered from similar symptoms than he ever realized.
Goldstein hopes that his openness and honesty will help more lawyers come forward and seek treatment for their own issues, rather than attempt to suffer in silence, which, he cautions, simply won’t work long term. The profession, he believes, is in need of a network to help one another cope with mental health disorders.