The crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 last week has raised questions about who is mentally fit to fly a plane. Obviously, there needs to be some revisions to the present policies abroad in response to the tragedy of 150 lives. I mourn for all the families and send my prayers to them. However, in reading pieces about the new possible regulations to be put in place, I fear the industry will become like the legal sector, where strict procedures to maintain mental-health fitness has discouraged both law students and established attorneys from getting the help they need for a mood disorder.
“In some states, law students who report that they have a mental health condition as part of the character and fitness investigation may be precluded from passing the bar,” Timothy Clement, MPH, Scattergood Fellow on Stigma Reduction, told me today. “In many other states the student will have to furnish his or her treatment records in order to pass. This type of exclusion is based on inaccurate stereotypes and has a chilling effect on law students seeking diagnosis and treatment.”
Have the regulations empowered this group of professionals to seek help? Consider these statistics compiled by the Dave Nee Foundation:
- Entering law school, law students have a psychological profile similar to that of the general public. After law school, 20-40% have a psychological dysfunction.
- Lawyers are 3.6 times more likely to suffer from depression than non-lawyers.
- Lawyers rank 5th in incidence of suicide by occupation.
- Lawyers are the most frequently depressed occupational group in the US.
“At the Dave Nee Foundation, as we travel across the country visiting law students, we have found a high percentage of the students will not seek help because they fear professional consequences,” says Executive Director Rachael Barrett. “While, character and fitness concerns are real, law school administrators are available to help students through the process and will encourage students to seek help.”