Just last week, as Larry, co-founder of Rocket Matter, and I discussed his App of the Week post about nutrition, we went on a tangent about the work-life and wellness topics we’ve written about here and the need for more, as it speaks directly to productivity. And we’re all about productivity!

We were especially burdened about addressing issues related to lawyers and depression. Later that day, through the magic of social media, we came across a mention by Susan of Solo Practice University about the Dave Nee Foundation. I contacted them and chatted with Wynne Kelly whose passion and commitment to this very important project formed the basis for this piece.

The Dave Nee Foundation

The Dave Nee Foundation was created in the wake of the 2005 suicide of Dave Nee, a brilliant individual and law student who struggled silently with depression for many years. Dave possessed extraordinary intelligence and intellectual curiosity, traits that were complemented by his humor, selflessness, and generosity.

He never disclosed his pain and we missed the symptoms. He changed the lives of everyone he came into contact with, but suffered in agony for years.

The foundation is committed to fighting depression and preventing suicide through awareness and education, and, specifically among law students through its Uncommon Counsel program.

Depression and the legal profession

The sobering statistics:

  • Depression among law students is 8-9% prior to matriculation, 27% after one semester, 34% after 2 semesters, and 40% after 3 years.
  • Lawyers are the most frequently depressed occupational group in the US.
  • Depression and anxiety is cited by 26% of all lawyers who seek counseling.
  • 15% of people with clinical depression commit suicide.
  • Lawyers rank 5th in incidence of suicide by occupation.

These statistics are especially daunting when viewed in the context of today’s economy and the impact it has had on the legal profession and the less than rosy prospects for today’s graduates.

Getting help

The foundation raises awareness by presenting at law schools, firms, orientations, and other events — from class of 8 to an entire first year class. Representatives tell the Dave Nee story, talk about symptoms, and provide information about resources, including counseling centers at law schools and free consultations at firms.

Privacy is a concern for lawyers and confidentiality issues vary from state to state. State bars are taking notice, though many still make inquires about depression and mental illness on their admissions forms.

We are not  aware of  any lawyer being denied admission because of depression.

The foundation partners with lawyer assistance programs, sharing powerful stories and reducing the stigma associated with depression.

The message is getting through as law students and lawyers have begun to seek help.

If you are suffering from depression or know of anyone who is, or trying to figure out how to recognize the symptoms, check out the Dave Nee Foundation for additional information and resource on how you can get help.