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Dan Lukasik took a painful time in his life and made it the impetus to create a resource for others facing similar challenges.

Lukasik, a 1988 graduate of the University at Buffalo School of Law and Managing Partner at the law firm of Bernhardi Lukasik PLLC in Buffalo, is the founder of Lawyerswithdepression.com

Below is a Question and Answer interview Lukasik granted Progressive Law Practice.

PLP: What was the inspiration for starting the Lawyers with Depression site?

Lukasik: When I turned 40 about 12 years ago, I fell into a deep depression. It was a very painful time in my life and I really struggled to recover. After about six months of treatment, I began to feel better. With medication and therapy, I became productive again at work. Around that time I went looking for someplace to contribute an article about my experiences about practicing law and recovering from depression. I just couldn't find a website or a magazine that was interested in publishing my account. So, I created one. It was the first website of its kind in the country.

PLP: How has running this website changed or impacted you personally?

Lukasik: The website has had a dramatic impact on my life. I've found my work helping other lawyers with depression very fulfilling and meaningful. Since the website first came out, I have gone on to start a support group for lawyers in my community, produce a documentary called "A Terrible Melancholy: Depresison in the Legal Profesison," and start a life coaching practice specifically designed to help lawyers who struggle with depression. I want lawyers who suffer to know that you may struggle from depression, But you can also be a successful attorney. I wanted to be an example for them. While I am not a psychiatrist or a psychologist, I know a lot about depression. And, I know a lot about lawyering. I have been blessed to meet so many wonderful people. I've received so much more than I've given. I'm really a lucky man.

PLP: What have been some of the most interesting or useful advancements regarding coping strategies for lawyers suffering from depression?

Lukasik: I believe that Lawyer Assistance Programs around the country, which have historically worked with lawyers with alcohol and drug problems, have started to seriously assist those in the profession who suffer with depression. Law schools have also begun to take the issue more seriously. A few years ago, the ABA Student Division launched a "Mental Health Initiative" to tackle the problem. Many law schools have an annual "Mental Health Day" to bring attention to the problem and what students can do about it.

it has been featured in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and on CNNhas helped. Depression is a health problem no different than diabetes or heart disease. Lawyers afflicted with it need medical care and attention. They need others loving care and understanding. They don't need others telling them to "suck it up" or to "snap out of it."

PLP: In your view, are lawyers more susceptible to depression than those working in other professions?

Lukasik: Lawyers are definitely more susceptible to depression. One study found the rate of lawyer depression to be twice that of the general population, or about 20%. When put in perspective, that means that approximately 240,000 of this county's attorneys are struggling with depression right now. The problem appears to begin in law school. One study found that before entering law school, law students had about the same rate of depression as the general population - 10%.

After the first year of law school, the rate of depression rose to 20% and by the end of the second year, a whopping 40%. When put in perspective, that means that by the end of their second year, approximately 65,000 of this nation's 150,000 law students will struggle with depression.

PLP: What advice would you give a law school student preparing to enter the workforce?

Lukasik: I believe law students need to be aware of their higher risk for depression. Given that, they really need to take care of themselves physically, emotionally and spiritually. Modern science has concluded that there's a powerful connection between stress, anxiety and depression. One top psychologist, Richard O'Connor, Ph.d., wrote: "Depression is stress that has gone on too long."

I think the point he's is trying to make is that the problem isn't the normal stress we deal with every day while trying to navigate the demanding life of a lawyer. It is "chronic stress" that is the problem. Such corrosive stress changes the neurochemistry in our brain and makes individuals more susceptible and at higher risk for depression.

Some useful links are include:

* Lawyerswithdepression.com

* Lawyer Assistance Programs

* ABA Mental Health Initiative

* A Terrible Melancholy: Depression in the Legal Profession documentary trailer

* Lukasik lawyer depression life coaching practice

* Lukasik bio

Last modified on Saturday, 31 May 2014
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