Advice column: should I admit that I have been diagnosed for clinical depression?

Dear Ash

I was recently diagnosed by my doctor for clinical depression and he suggested that I be signed off from work in order to give me some space and to begin treatment. However, I work in a busy corporate environment and do not imagine that I will get much sympathy for taking time off work. A colleague recently went off for stress related issues and I overheard one of the managers describing the person as “weak”. I do not want the stigma of depression to affect my career, but I am conscious of feeling physically and mentally drained at the moment.

Ash replies:

Depression is often misunderstood as not really an illness but essentially a weakness. There is a misconceived perception that the person claiming to suffer from depression just needs to “snap out of it” and that he/she has the ability to change the way they are feeling. This is probably as a result of many sufferers still being able remarkably to carry on functioning on a day-to-day basis despite their condition.

However, if a medical practitioner is concerned enough to advise you to take time off work, then it is important that you do not choose to ignore this advice. If you are, by your own admission, feeling mentally and physically exhausted, this will soon become apparent at work and you may not be able to hide your condition from colleagues for long. You may also not be able to perform your work at the expected standards and this may result in you being disciplined for performance related issues. It is therefore imperative that you do take time out in order to address your issues. If you feel that you do not want to be signed off from work, then it may be better for you to take some annual leave for at least a couple of weeks to allow you to recuperate and decide how you wish to progress with treating your illness.

Presumably if you had some form of physical ailment such as a broken leg or arm, you would not have even considered ignoring medical advice. Just because your illness is psychological as opposed to physical in nature does not mean that you do not need care and attention in order to treat the condition. You are certainly not alone in dealing with depression, and there are specialist care advice services such as LawCare which specifically provide advice to legal professionals in your position. Please don’t ignore the advice: seek help sooner rather than later.


“Ash” is a solicitor who is willing to answer work-related queries from solicitors and trainees, which can be put to her via the editor:, or mail to Studio 2001, Mile End, Paisley PA1 1JS. Confidence will be respected and any advice published will be anonymised.


  • Please note that letters to Ash are not received at the Law Society of Scotland. The Society offers a support service for trainees through its Registrar’s Department. For one-to-one advice contact Katie Wood, Manager in the Registrar’s Department on 0131 476 8105/8200, or


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