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Chris Parsons - equity partner at international firm, Herbert Smith Freehills

Getting help is critical

Chris Parsons, an equity partner at international firm, Herbert Smith Freehills shares his own personal insights into poor mental health and the steps he took towards recovery with the SBA The Solicitors' Charity .

"Anxiety was a feature of my life from a young age - as I felt insecure at home I began to view the world as an unsafe place, a place to be feared. Exams were a nightmare and even the school 100-yards race induced feelings of faintness and sickness. Why against this background did I think that law was the profession for me I am not sure - something about status was part of it and proving myself to my Dad was also relevant.

I joined Herbert Smith (now Herbert Smith Freehills) as an articled clerk in 1985 and worked hard to keep on top of the role but more importantly to keep on top of my anxiety. I began to self-medicate with alcohol to reduce the stress at the end of each day. And my love affair with alcohol began in earnest - it was the answer to all my dreams until the morning brought a new day of work. I could clearly do the job and others thought I was good at it as I progressed from young lawyer to equity partner. But the inner turmoil of stress and anxiety multiplied by ever longer hours and increasing amounts of alcohol finally brought me to breaking point and I collapsed in the gym one evening and was rushed to hospital.

My stress and anxiety rapidly turned to depression as I felt my world fall apart.

What are the overall messages I would like to share? Depression is terrible - life does not seem worth living, but it is common - when I share my story with others I am struck by the stories in return. Like other illnesses it can be treated - whether through talking therapies or medication or both (I believe that medication saved my life and I continue to take a maintenance dose to this day).

And there is life after depression - despite a return of the "Black Dog" three years ago - my last ten years at work have been by far the happiest of my career

Read Chris's story in full on the SBA - The Solicitors' Charity website