Coming Out in the Classroom: Law Professors, Law Students and Depression
64 Journal of Legal Education 403 (2015)
13 Pages Posted: 11 Sep 2014 Last revised: 20 Apr 2015
Date Written: August 1, 2014
The evidence of a mental health crisis in law schools and in the legal profession is overwhelming and undeniable. Our students are suffering. Our former students, who are now our colleagues in the bar, are suffering. Despite the widespread nature of the problem, lawyers and law students (and law professors) who struggle with mental illness – whether depression, anxiety disorder, bipolar disorder, or something more serious – all too often suffer in silence and do their best to appear "normal" and "happy." Why? Because there remains a very real stigma attached to mental illness in the legal profession, where it is seen as a sign of weakness, a lack of dedication or a character flaw. Given that today’s depressed law students will, more likely than not, be tomorrow’s depressed lawyers, law schools and the legal professoriate must bring the issue of mental illness out of the closet and into the open. We must do more to educate our students about mental illness and remove the stigma attached to it.
In this essay, I discuss how I "come out" about my mental illness in the classroom, share my personal struggles with my students, and use my struggles to teach my students about mental illness, the stresses of the legal profession, and strategies for addressing mental health while practicing law.
Keywords: lawyers, depression, mental illness, teaching, coming out, law students, stress, anxiety, legal education
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