254 THE ADVOCATE
VOL. 78 PART 2 MARCH 2020
person had a strong enough will or a good enough character they could just
snap out of it.
This idea kills people. The most wounded people I see have bought into
this idea and have continued to push themselves until they just cannot do
it anymore. People around them have bought into this belief and often suggest
that the person buck up, and some well-meaning people think that if
they can help relieve some of the stress for the person they will be able to
get over it.
A large research study conducted in 2016 confirmed high rates of alcohol
abuse, anxiety and depression among lawyers.1 What is most shocking from
the research are the very low rates of help-seeking. Only seven per cent of
the lawyers who knew they had a problem with alcohol sought help, and
only thirty per cent of those suffering from a mood disorder sought help.
The reason was stigma: they feared others would find out and that they
would be considered weak.
I say this strongly: this type of reasoning kills people. They do not go for
the help they need; they do not do the proper things to help them recover
and stay recovered. The very characteristics that they use to try to get over
it are the characteristics that, used incorrectly and while ill, will kill them.
If you know a person who appears to have gone off course—and by that
I mean you notice a negative change in attendance, performance or behaviour—
let them know that you have noticed and that there is help available.
Let them know that it is OK to be “off” sometimes. It takes a courageous person
to ask for and accept help. If you think it is difficult when you are feeling
well, I want you to know that it seems overwhelming when a person is
in serious distress.
If this negative change in attendance, productivity or behaviour is affecting
you negatively, do not just accept it. Tell the person. You are being helpful
if you insist that the person get the help they need to remedy the
situation. However, please be hard on the problem, not on the person. All
the individuals I have seen are doing their best—they want to do well, they
do not want to let people down, but they are stuck.
A large part of their problem is the lack of acceptance that they have an
illness and that they can do something about the illness. When a person is
ill with addiction or mood disorder (or cancer or other illnesses, for that
matter), to focus at the external level of attendance, performance and
behaviour will not do any long-term good and will usually exacerbate the
problem. They do, however, need to focus on getting help for their problem
and on doing the things that help people recover from these illnesses. Information
gathered from various lawyer assistance programs around the U.S.