“True Stories” is a series of guest blogs I am running. Below, Gavin Alexander bravely tells his story of a journey from Harvard and Biglaw to becoming a champion for mental health and well-being in the legal profession.
I felt comfortable enough to come out as bisexual when I was 16. I didn’t feel comfortable enough to come out as suffering from depression until I was 30. As a result, while I was pretty darn sure from around age 12 that the symptoms I was experiencing were tied to mental illness, I did not seek or receive any kind of treatment or mental health support until I was 5 years into my practice as a lawyer. I was petrified that leaving any sort of “paper trail” of having received mental health treatment would place a cap on my ambitions, limit my career prospects, or even cause me to lose the support of my family and friends.
During my time in law school, I thought about killing myself nearly every day of every exam and study period. I believed, based on messaging I received from law school career services offices, law professors, and the legal media, that anything short of massive success would result in abject poverty and an inability to repay my over $200,000 of student loans. I wound up finishing my 1L year at Boston University School of Law with the number 1 GPA in my section of over 80 students, transferring to Harvard Law School, graduating from Harvard in the top 10% of my class with a GPA of 4.02, and securing a clerkship with former Chief Justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (the “SJC”) Ralph Gants. I provide these details not to brag, but to illustrate that depression and suicidal ideation can affect even those who show all external indicia of success.