According to a July 30, 2015 article in The National Law Journal, the ABA will debate next week over how much a bar applicant should be required to reveal about their mental health history during the character-and-fitness review process.

This is a topic near and dear to me, and not just in the legal world.  I have family members and friends who suffer from depression, bi-polar disorder and schizophrenia.  The stigma that is associated with mental illness is huge in our society.

I have seen first hand how those with mental illness are treated, even by the health professionals.  It is traumatizing to people that suffer with mental illness to be treated by health professionals so poorly. Before my son passed away earlier this year, he would often comment to me how poorly he was treated when I was not at the hospital with him.  I didn’t want to believe that this was true, but trying to find help for him was next to impossible.  Many promises were made by mental health professionals to help him, but then there were always excuses as to why they couldn’t follow through with the help.  I began to believe that what my son told me was true.  Of course, the treatment of our mentally ill is a topic for another day.

As to the debate about bar applicants and their mental health history, I am torn.  On the one hand I think that mental health issues could be exacerbated by the pressures in the legal arena and should be disclosed (we see this many times as paralegals, not only with attorneys, but judges and fellow paralegals) but on the other hand, the stigma that comes with revealing someone’s mental health issues could be traumatizing and embarrassing and an applicant should not have to reveal their issues.  I will be waiting to hear more about this and how the ABA plans on handling this issue.  I would love to hear how others feel about this upcoming debate as well.

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