Law: Lawyers on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown ; Stress and Long Hours Are Driving Male Solicitors to Drink and Female Ones into Depressive Illness. Help Is at Hand, Reports Robert Verkaik
Verkaik, Robert, The Independent (London, England)
THE STRAIT-LACED shop fronts of Britain's law firms hide a sad story of drinking and women solicitors in the midst of deep depressions, according to new research carried out by the solicitors' counselling service, Solcare, which helps lawyers deal with drink and drug addictions and stress- related problems.
Analysis of Solcare's caseload in the last 15 months has revealed that all the partners who have asked for help with their alcoholism are men and three quarters of the assistant solicitors who have complained of depression and stress are women.
Barry Pritchard, national co-ordinator of Solcare, says he believes this is just the tip of the iceberg: "It appears men are more willing to take to the bottle rather than to confront their problems directly whereas young women in law firms are suffering from all the classic symptoms of depression."
So far, 15 partners have been counselled for alcoholism and 46 assistant solicitors have contacted the helpline for depression and stress-related illnesses. Since the beginning of this year, another seven trainee solicitors, all of whom are women, have complained to Solcare of depression.
This month, meanwhile, an inquest was told that a high-flying solicitor hanged himself after work pressures at his City law firm became too much and tipped him into a spiral of depression. Charles Acheson-Gray, a young corporate lawyer, took his own life after complaining of the long hours demanded by his job. He was diagnosed with clinical depression last year and was admitted to a private psychiatric clinic after the break-up of a relationship compounded his stress load.
Mr Pritchard said that Solcare did not keep national suicide figures for lawyers but acknowledged that solicitors were taking their own lives when they couldn't cope with the stresses of being a lawyer.
"I have managed to talk two male solicitors out of committing suicide. I feel pretty sure if they hadn't contacted us they would be dead now. …