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Lawyers and Mental Health

Lawyers and their mental health is becoming more common. International campaigns over the last few years and celebrities opening up about their struggles means more than ever before, we are talking more.  Some industries are prone to mental illness. Those who work in law know all too well the problems facing lawyers: Addiction to narcotics, prescription drugs and alcohol, Depression and anxiety, bi-polar disorders.  A 2016 ABA study in association with the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation finally confirmed what had been suspected for years – lawyers experience mental illness at much higher rates.

Mental Illness and Lawyers in 2019

A year after the study, the National Task Force on Attorney Well-Being set up for the purpose of making mental health recommendations to the law industry. Yet some commentators feel the recommendations do not go far enough. It does not focus so much on mental health as on substance abuse and alcoholism which is just one problem facing law professionals. Far less emphasis is given to depression, anxiety and other non-addiction related mental illnesses. According to a separate study, lawyers with depression and anxiety not related to addiction is about 20%.

Alcoholism is Still Problematic

That said, it is generally understood that lawyers consume too much alcohol. For decades, each state has had a Lawyer Assistance Programs to deal specifically with mental health problems caused by addiction – both alcohol and narcotics, legal and otherwise. Most have been successful at what they do, working to the same principles as Alcoholics Anonymous.

Far less attention has been paid to those other forms of mental illness. State LAPs do take calls from lawyers living with depression and anxiety, and they do refer such calls for external treatment. However, there is no dedicated service and it is this lack of professional service that those who work in the industry want to do something about.

General Depression Statistics

Depression is currently a leading life-limiting disability globally. Around ¼ of people will experience this type of mental illness during their life while the rate of depression in the general population at any given time is 7%. The ABA study mentioned at the beginning of the article found rates of depression among lawyers was considerably higher at 28% in the year prior to the survey. It’s been called “an epidemic”. Even more astounding, around 61% said they had suffered depression during their career. It must be reiterated that these figures do not relate to addiction.

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