Tackling depression in the legal profession

18 September 2008

At the third annual Tristan Jepson Memorial Oration on Thursday, 18 September, Professor Ian Hickie presented findings from a large national study of law students and practitioners conducted by the University's Brain & Mind Research Institute.

The study of over 2,400 lawyers, including 741 law students from 13 law schools (including those from the University of Sydney), confirms that Australian law students and their more senior colleagues report experiences of high or very psychological distress at two to three times the expected rates. The students have much higher rates than medical students or other general students at the University of Sydney.

Importantly, the students also report less specific knowledge of depression, greater concerns about alcohol and other substance misuse and a greater reluctance to seek professional care. Further, the law students are more likely to expect that they would be discriminated against in the work place as a result of being recognised as a person with depression.

The Study extends previous work in Australia by beyondblue: the national depression initiative in 2007, which had demonstrated that lawyers reported higher levels of depression and substance misuse than other professionals.

In his lecture Professor Hickie will also emphasise that the willingness of the law schools, the Law Society and the NSW Bar Association to support the Study and go on to consider ways to greatly improve the situation was most welcome and urgently needed. He also spoke about other professional and graduate educational groups, such as medical schools, that have had to develop very active programs in partnership with senior professional leaders to achieve real change in their areas.

Contact: Jake O'Shaughnessy

Phone: +61 2 9351 4312 or 0421 617 861

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