Vol. 39, No. 4

Life of a Leader correspondent, state bar president addresses mental health

by Marilyn Cavicchia

We’ve long heard that lawyers suffer from depression, anxiety, and other issues at rates that are significantly higher than that of the general population—and that bar associations and lawyer assistance programs can play a key role in making sure that lawyers who need help, get help.

So we took notice when the Indiana State Bar Association passed along a blog post called “Let’s talk about lawyer mental health,” in which its current president, Jeff R. Hawkins, discussed this important topic, including his personal connection to it, some resources at his bar association, and tips to help create a climate in which lawyers with a mental illness feel less stigmatized.

You might also recall that Hawkins was a correspondent in our Life of a Leader series, during which incoming bar leaders kept in touch with us as they prepared to take the helm.

“On some level everyone is impaired relative to someone else because we all have different mental capacities and affinities,” Hawkins writes in his post, which also appeared as a president's page in the January/February 2015 issue of the ISBA's Res Gestae. “Some of us function sufficiently well to pass medical board or bar exams without treatment, but we function below potential because of hidden mental hindrances.”

Indeed, Hawkins discovered fairly recently that his own executive brain function was significantly impaired by previously undiagnosed attention deficit disorder. His post about mental health links back to a previous one in which he disclosed and discussed that condition—something he also chose to do at the bar’s 2014 Annual Meeting, where he was installed as president.

Rather than repackaging Hawkins’ post as a Bar Leader article, we thought we’d simply direct your attention to it so you can read it—and perhaps also the one about ADD—in its home environment.

We believe you’ll appreciate Hawkins’ frankness as much as we did, and that you’ll find it useful if you have a mental illness or impairment or know someone who does—or even if you just need an example of a blog post or president’s page on a topic that could save someone’s life.