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Language has always fascinated me. I feel like I can learn so much about a culture and a people just by trying to understand how they speak and express themselves. I never fathomed that language can be a signal for someone in distress.
In the September, 2019 episode of the State Bar of Texas Podcast, we recognized National Suicide Prevention Month by focusing our discussion on mental health. My guests were Chris Ritter, the director of the Texas Lawyers’ Assistance Program, or TLAP, and Terry Bentley Hill, a Dallas criminal defense attorney whose personal saga with mental health and suicide led her to champion awareness of mental health issues for lawyers.
In the podcast, Terry said that her experiences familiarized her with “the language of depression.” It appears that people who battle depression speak differently. Their words reflect a black-and-white view of the world that most people might not recognize. I certainly had no idea that language even existed.
It turns out that we, as lawyers, need to learn how to recognize that language. In his work with TLAP, Chris has learned that lawyers suffer higher rates of depression than any other American occupational group. You can learn more in his article in the September 2019 issue of the Texas Bar Journal. Together, though, Terry and Chris make it abundantly clear that our profession is so busy caring for clients that we often neglect to care for ourselves—and each other.
But help is out there. If you think you might be battling depression or if you have suicidal thoughts, don’t take chances by suffering in silence. Call 800-273-8255, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. This lifeline is staffed with trained professionals and provides free and confidential support 24/7. If you’d like to learn more about the resources made available through TLAP, please contact 800-343-TLAP (8527) or go to tlaphelps.org. The calls are 100% confidential, and TLAP volunteers are singularly interested in your well-being.
Think you might know a lawyer who is depressed? Maybe a colleague or loved one has become withdrawn, has started drinking more heavily, or seems disengaged. Terry and Chris advise us to ask them how they are. In doing so, we need to open a door to dialogue and do so without judgment and in a spirit of caring and concern. You just might save a life. If you need help with that dialogue, TLAP has your back. Call TLAP at 1-800-343-TLAP (8527) and a TLAP volunteer will reach out to the lawyer for whom you are concerned.
The biggest thing I learned from my time with Terry and Chris is that I have so much to learn. Luckily, there are resources out there to help us get assistance. My ear will now be attuned to hearing the language of depression, and my mind will realize that depression is a disease, not merely a state of mind.
Please subscribe to the State Bar of Texas Podcast, and you will be alerted once the interview posts. This is a vital, potentially life-saving podcast. I hope you will tune in. Stay safe and be well.
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