An interview with Julia Clayton, founder and President of the The Lawyers Depression ProjectStaff
By Lori King
Julia Clayton had OCD episodes as a teenager and managed to power her way through school, and then college. During her first summer job at law school, working for a federal judge in Sacramento, her anxiety and obsessive-compulsive behavior was “off the charts”. She describes checking to make sure the night access pass was secure, “over and over again”. It became clear to her that she needed to address this issue and get treatment. Once she got back from law school, Julia contacted UC Berkely health services and began to see a psychiatrist. She was diagnosed, received treatment, and began therapy. Over time she became comfortable with the fact that she had OCD and was more confident sharing the fact that she has it. In 2018 an article about her, by Joe Milowic a fellow attorney who was also struggling with mental issues was published. It was such a relief to be able to talk to someone about it. She didn’t want to be scared of the stigma, especially in the legal profession. Joe had the idea of organizing online peer support sessions. Julia began participating in them and then facilitating them.
Joe and Julia along with 3 other attorneys decided to form a non-profit, which is now The Lawyers Depression Project which aims to help those who have suffered from depression, anxiety, bipolar, OCD, eating disorders, trauma, sexual abuse, addiction, and other mental health conditions, or who just don’t feel quite right.
While LDP practices strict confidentiality and is no-cost, anyone who signs up must supply an emergency contact person.
“The Lawyers Depression Project hosts a confidential web forum, where members can post anonymously on a number of topics related to mental health. LDP also offers free, anonymous, and confidential peer-to-peer support group meetings online.”
As an organization that is staffed by those from the legal community, it is one of the unique and ultimately important factors for those who choose to sign up and attend peer support sessions. LDP has added special “She/Her” days twice a month, dedicated to specific issues. LDP is nationwide and reaches a broad range of individuals in the legal profession including law students.
LDP is clear that they are not medical health professionals, they provide resources and support.
In addition to providing a space where members can find support, LDP hopes to create systemic change. “The time has long passed for the legal profession to fully acknowledge and address mental illness within our ranks. We do ourselves and clients an incredible disservice by continuing to pretend that the proverbial emperor is wearing clothes,” says Stephanie Mitchell Hughes, an attorney and LDP Board Member.
One of the tenets of LDP is to practice normalizing mental health, to reduce and maybe someday release the stigma of mental health.
How To Get Involved
LDP welcomes new members into the community. Any legal professionals, including law students, who are interested can read more and sign up at LDP’s website: https://www.lawyersdepressionproject.org/.
How To Get Help
If you or someone you know is struggling or in crisis, help is available. Call or text 988 or chat 988lifeline.org