Six weeks ago I landed in Barcelona, Spain for the very first time in my life. I came from a very small town of only two-thousand people on the west coast of the United States. To say that I was surprised and overwhelmed by the size of this city would be an understatement. I was immediately surprised by the kindness of the people in Barcelona. I don’t know Spanish or Catalan at all and was expecting to struggle a lot more than I actually did. I quickly learned how to manage the public transportation service; which I was terrified of getting lost on. However, the love that grew inside me for this town is deep. I came to Barcelona to gain experience in the Psychology field, and I am leaving with more than I ever thought I would have learned.
Upon arrival, I chose to work with the Mental Health Institute of Legal Professional. The organization works very hard to bring knowledge and awareness to the mental health and illnesses that consume those working in the legal profession, such as judges, lawyers, and law students. While being here, I wrote many articles about the members on the advisory board of the company. There are many important people from all over the world on the advisory board, and I was privileged to have gotten to know about them. While doing this, I learned some of the statistics that lawyers and law students have to face when it comes to mental illnesses. An astounding twenty-eight percent of lawyers have depression. That is four times the national average. Doing the math, that means that 365,000 lawyers have depression. That is larger than the population of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. An even scarier number, eleven and a half percent had suicidal thoughts, that is five times the national average. I was able to learn many other statistics, and each time it broke my heart. Another important thing to recognize is that this is happening all over the world. Not one country or company is being affected but the entire world.
Along with learning statistics among the legal community, I had opportunities to further my growth in the profession and to network among other members of the field. I attended a conference in Girona, Spain with the team that I have been working with. At this conference, I was able to meet and listen to the stories shared by others working hard to bring the same awareness of mental health in their cities and countries. One that very much helped me was listening to the presentation of David Jaffe. He works as a dean of students in the United States and is seeing that same higher mental illness statistics among law students. Hearing his input to the situation along with some actions that people might be able to take helped to open my eyes to different possibilities within this field of work. As a psychology student, I wanted to find a new perspective here and to hear different stories and ways to help people.
I am proud to have had the opportunity to work with such a passionate organization. The members worked hard every day to include me and help me grow and learn within the psychology field. I only had six weeks here in Spain, and it wasn’t even close to the amount of time that I wished I could have had. This association and similar organizations all over the world still have many more years of battling to do before they start to see a significant result happen. It will be a long journey, but an important and passionate one it will be as well. I will forever be grateful for the opportunity to work alongside Manel and his team and to have gained the knowledge and skills that I have while being here in this amazing city.