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Lawyer Produces Documentary Addressing Depression Among Lawyers

Posted Nov 24, 2010 2:28 PM CDT
By Stephanie Francis Ward

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A trailer for the documentary.

Daniel Lukasik, a Buffalo, N.Y., lawyer who also founded the website and companion blog Lawyers with Depression, recently produced a short documentary on the same subject, which he hopes will be shown at law schools around the country.

Titled A Terrible Melancholy: Depression in the Legal Profession, the film focuses on the stories of lawyers and judges. Included in the mix is Abraham Lincoln, who according to a Lawjobs.com article fought with depression his entire life.

"The film is meant to educate and inform people about what depression is and what it isn't, and also to destigmatize it in the legal profession," Lukasik told Lawjobs.com. "I think it's a huge stigma. Lawyers are supposed to be problem-solvers. We've not supposed to have problems."

To finance the film, Lukasik got money from the Erie County, N.Y., Bar Foundation, the New York Lawyer Assistance Trust and the Margaret L. Wendt Foundation. The Erie County Bar Foundation is making the film available to law schools and practitioners.

Every state has some form of confidential support program for lawyers struggling with substance abuse or emotional problems. Many state bars have affiliated programs while others run separate nonprofit groups staffed by volunteers. The programs vary, though most offer personal and career counseling, as well as referrals to other resources. Some offer individual and group therapy sessions. Some also serve law students and judges.

The ABA commission develops educational materials for lawyers about substance abuse, stress, depression and other mental health issues, and it works closely with lawyer assistance programs run by state and local bar associations. A directory of those programs, along with other training and educational materials, publications, products and related resources, is avail­able on the commission’s website at abanet.org/legalservices/colap.

The commission also maintains a referral hotline for lawyers in crisis at 1-866-LAW-LAPS.

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