Welcome to the Gwen S. Cherry Black Women
Building on Our Legacy: Developing the Whole Lawyer
The holidays . . . Diwali. All Hallows Eve. Thanksgiving. Hanukkah. Christmas.
For some, the balance of 2017 and the holidays are singularly the best time of the year. Some love the hustle and bustle in the malls. Others relish the inevitable toy store melee that gives way to euphoria when they snag the last “2017 Hot Toy”. Many are excited about finding the perfect gift or preparing a feast fit for queens and kings.
Others – many others – have a very different experience. There are others suffering with depression, isolation, loss in its many forms or other maladies for whom the holidays are excruciatingly painful. The mere thought of family time or time off from work engenders not-so-happy feelings, if not pure dread. Still others resort to alcohol or prescription medications to help them cope with the very real anxieties of the holidays.
If you find yourself in the latter group, you are not alone.
The American Psychiatric Association reports that “nearly one in five (19 percent) [of] U.S. adults experience some form of mental illness”. The National Institute of Mental Health estimates “depression affects 17 million Americans” annually. The holidays no doubt contribute to an uptick in those numbers.
So what are the signs that you or someone you care for is struggling? What do you do if you think you have a problem?
Before addressing those questions, first and foremost, let’s agree that it is ok to not be ok. We should proactively work towards creating an environment where we, our friends and our loved ones, can be “not well” or “different” without judging. Mental illnesses are health conditions like any other.
Next, we will work on practicing self-awareness. While we may not love sitting silently or “listening to that still, small voice”, our inner spirits have our best interests at heart more often than not. Be willing to ask ourselves, “How am I feeling?”, and then wait for and accept the answers that come.
In a space of acceptance and self-awareness, the signs of struggle can be more readily observed. The signs of struggle come in varied forms. Feeling melancholy about the loss of a great opportunity you worked really hard for or the death of a close friend who was like family is absolutely normal. Staying in that melancholy state for prolonged periods of time . . . not being able to shake the blues . . . . is not. If you are experiencing insomnia or sleeping way more than usual, or you have a significant weight gain/loss you weren’t aiming for, or you are feeling helpless or hopeless, get help!
Scan the “National Task Force on Lawyer Well-Being: Practical Recommendations for Positive Change” Report here. It outlines action steps for improving and maintaining lawyer well-being. Additionally, there are more ABA resources designed to assist lawyers and their supporters during times of need that can be found through its #Fit2Practice-Mental Health portal. Draw from the support systems available through the Florida Lawyers Assistance. Also, stay tuned for the findings of The Florida Bar’s Special Committee on Health and Wellness for Florida Lawyers.
The Gwen S. Cherry Black Women Lawyers Association, like many of the local voluntary bars, will also tackle the issue of mental health and wellness via programming later this year. Stay tuned for more on this front.
In the interim, please know that you are not alone. We are here for you, and we care. We do not posit to have all of the answers to what ails you. We do promise that you have willing and able friends and collaborative partners in us.
The Gwen S. Cherry Black Women Lawyers Association is also here for you. Full Disclosure: We are not mental health professionals. We are, however, a “safe space” for our members and supporters seeking a “Judgement Free Zone”. We maintain our promise that you have willing and able friends and collaborative partners in us.
Nikki Lewis Simon