During his presidency, my good friend, Brad Kammholz, began a program that challenged each one of us to check in on one another. To call one another and ask how we are doing. To lend a shoulder to lean on and an ear to bend to those that may be going through things that cannot be seen to the naked eye but are just as impactful to their health and well-being as a punch to the gut. For all the lofty goals I have set for my term, it will most certainly be a failure if I did not, at a minimum, keep this program and this task going forward.
“No man is an island, entire of itself.” – John Donne. This is one of my favorite poems because it speaks to the interconnectivity of all of humanity. In sum, it has been said to be a metaphorical phrase meaning that all human beings are connected to one another in one form or fashion. No person is like an island separated from all land masses and onto itself alone. We as attorneys, as human beings, are connected to one another. Through our craft and profession. Through our desire to help our clients. Through our desire to make a difference. Having said that, we must all recognize that with such aspirations comes a great amount of stress. This stress affects us all. It affects our mental, physical, and emotional well-being.
As evidence of this fact, consider the following. Recent studies have shown that while 6.7% of the U.S. population suffers from depression, a whopping 45% of attorneys suffer from, or have suffered from, depression. Of that 45% of attorneys dealing with depression, 12% of them have had active suicidal ideations at one point or another of their careers.
It does not end there, 19% of attorneys suffer from anxiety. Twenty-one percent of attorneys have voluntarily disclosed that they have an alcohol abuse problem. When questioned further, and their lifestyles and habits more closely examined, that number rose to 35%. Additionally, 9% of attorneys suffer from an addiction to prescription drugs or other illicit drugs. In fact, the rate of addiction amongst attorneys is anywhere from 2.5 to 3.5 times higher than any other profession.
All of this data makes it undeniably clear. Although we may not want to admit to ourselves, we, sometimes, need help. We, sometimes, need a shoulder to lean on. An ear to bend. A friend to check in on us and see how we are doing. Sometimes we need to recognize when someone else needs that person in their lives and we need to be that person.
We as attorneys are fond of boasting, or complaining, about how busy we are. We bemoan that there is not enough time in a day to get to all of the things we need to get to for our clients. We hand wring and fret about the lack of hours in a day to touch all of the files on our desk.
Well, consider this. There are 24 hours in a day, 1,440 minutes in that same day and 86,400 seconds in that day. A phone call to check in on a friend or a colleague takes no more than five minutes out of that day. Or 300 seconds. Considering that reality, can we really not spare 300 seconds of the 86,400 seconds we are giving each and every day of our lives? Consider that those 300 seconds may help someone get through a tough time in their day or life. Those 300 seconds may make the difference for someone about to give into the pressures this profession foists upon all of us. In short, those 300 seconds may just make a difference.
This article is titled “Am I my brothers’ (and sisters’) keeper?” I would like for us all to answer that question in the affirmative by saying YES I AM. Please check in on one another from time to time and let’s help lower the statistics shared in this article.
Langston McFadden is president of the Monroe County Bar Association and a member with the Law Offices of Pullano & Farrow.