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Wellness Expert Urges Lawyers to Take Care of Their Mental Health

Focusing on mental health and wellness for lawyers, WMU-Cooley Law School held a virtual discussion on Oct. 11, with Mandi Clay, founder of Three Thirteen Law.  The event, “Lawyers Interrupted: Getting Better. Together.” was part of the law school’s monthly Community Conversations series.

Mandi Clay

Clay, a litigator and real estate agent who has represented clients in state and federal court, is an active member of the Florida Bar Association’s Standing Committee on Mental Health and Wellness of Florida Lawyers and a vocal advocate for those with mental and physical disabilities.

“We’re one of the professions in this country that has a higher level of mental health issues than the population at large,” Clay said during the event, noting that lawyers, in general, are twice as likely to suffer from depression and die by suicide than the general population. “The fact is that a lot of times your clients come to you at the most difficult time in their life.  You have to sort of guide them through that without letting it drain you emotionally.”

As a suicide attempt survivor who suffered from depression and panic disorder for nearly 30 years, Clay often speaks publicly about mental illness and the struggles it presents for those who live with it. She shared that her mental illness came before her legal career and had learned a lot of coping mechanisms before entering law school and practicing law.

“However, a lot of people suffer with mental illness before they go to law school and before they start practicing, but don’t get treatment,” said Clay. “I didn’t have any choice. I was taken by ambulance with almost no life left in me and so I had to seek treatment. I didn’t have a choice, but when people do have a choice, they worry about the stigma.

“We want to make sure that people understand that getting that kind of treatment is not going to be a barrier to practicing law. You will be a better lawyer if you are taking care of yourself. Just like you are a better parent or a better friend or a better spouse – all of those things – if you’re taking care of yourself.”

During the event, Clay explained that society should have a mental health checkup the same way there are dental and vision checkups.

It helps, she explained, “to have a therapist or mental health professional or even just check in with your general practitioner on your mental health at least once a year so that somebody knows your baseline.”

She  stressed the importance of setting boundaries and having a good support system – not just in your circle of family and friends, but within your profession as well.

“Take care of yourself as a person, and you set those boundaries early and please reach out for help,” said Clay.

Oct 17 2022