14 August 2018

Putting wellness first - Tackling anxiety and depression among lawyers

Published on 14 August 2018

With author, lawyer and journalist Jerome Doraisamy.

 

Following a pronounced bout of ill health, lawyer and journalist Jerome Doraisamy decided to tackle the issue of anxiety and depression among lawyers head on. He wrote and published ‘The Wellness Doctrines for Law Students and Young Lawyers’, a practical guide to managing one’s mental health while maintaining a thriving legal career. Jerome, now a journalist for Lawyers Weekly and Wellness Daily, spoke to Insights about what personal experiences compelled him to write, the impact of his work, and advice he has for young lawyers and law students.

“The obvious catalyst for the book was an 18-month bout of ill-health consisting of severe clinical anxiety and depression,” said Jerome. When he returned to university as an academic and researcher, he realised the culture that led to his health issues persisted.

“I wouldn’t wish what I experienced upon any student or lawyer,” said Jerome. “Having come out the other side, I felt I had a duty of sorts to help others be healthy and happy.”

Chief among Jerome’s advice: honesty.

“A problem shared is a problem halved,” advised Jerome. “Take the time to be open and honest with the people in your life whom you love and trust. Tell them about your daily stressors so that you can access their insight and perspective.

“Also, don’t be so hard on yourself. Being number one at everything isn’t sustainable. We need to be more pragmatic with our goal-setting and ensure we’re being true to ourselves.

“Finally, make the things in your life non-negotiable. If we’re making time rather than finding time for activities such as team sports, book club, yoga, meditation, etc. then we’re not going to place so much emphasis on study and work, as we’ll have other things that serve to motivate and inspire us. Just take it easy, remember that it’s okay to fail, and be open both with yourself and those around you.”

In addition to working as a journalist for Lawyers Weekly and Wellness Daily, Jerome is an adjunct lecturer at UWA Law School and provides workshops and lectures about wellbeing in the workplace.

“My two books are plodding along nicely!” said Jerome. “I’ll never sell like J.K. Rowling does, nor will my writing ever change the world. But it’s really validating and gratifying to have the capacity to change at least one person’s world - every time a young legal professional or student buys one of my books or hears me speak. That means a lot to me.”

Indeed, Jerome is frequently contacted by young lawyers who have read his work.

“I still remember the first message I received from a reader. It was from a young girl telling me that hearing me speak on the radio had inspired her to open up to her parents about the anxiety she’d been suffering. That was a big moment for me,” said Jerome.  “I receive messages from young students or lawyers at least once a week, opening up about how my books have given them the confidence to take action.”

“More broadly, my advocacy is about getting individuals to take responsibility for themselves with small but meaningful steps. As long as readers, or audience participants, take away at least one practical tool from my work, I’ve done my job.”

Its work he finds enormously rewarding.

I wake up every morning motivated to get out of bed. I didn’t have that for a long time, both because of health issues and because I didn’t feel like I was being true to myself. That’s no longer the case,” he said. “I genuinely enjoy that I get to do so much research and writing in both the legal and wellbeing spheres, while also sharing my experience with others. I’m ticking all the boxes I want ticked right now, and it’s keeping a smile on my face!”

If you or someone you know is experiencing mental health issues and needs help, you can visit Beyond Blue for support and advice.