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Legal Community Points Spotlight On Mental Health 

The legal community continues to grapple with a slew of mental-health-related challenges as suicidal thinking, substance abuse and other obstacles threaten the profession. For that reason, during the month of May, which is recognized as Mental Health Awareness Month, legal advocates, law firms and others in the legal community have again taken the opportunity to shed light on the issue and work toward mitigating these dangers.

One such organization, the Institute For Well-Being In Law (IWIL), designated the first week of the month as Well-Being Week in Law as a way to call upon the legal community to encourage individuals in need of assistance to seek help.

“The aim of WWIL is to raise awareness about mental health and encourage action and innovation across the profession to improve well-being,” according to the IWIL. “In 2021, the event’s name was changed from ‘Lawyer Well-Being Week’ to Well-Being Week in Law to be more explicitly inclusive of all of the important contributors to the legal profession who are not lawyers.”

The statistics measuring the legal community’s mental health obstacles are jarring. According to a report in a special issue of MDPI’s Healthcare published earlier this year, lawyers contemplate suicide at an alarming rate. Suicidal ideations occur between 10% and 12% of attorneys in the U.S.. For the rest of the adult population, that number is only 4.2%.

“Lawyers are prone to mental health issues, including anxiety, depression, and substance abuse, which are strongly linked to suicide risk,” according to the report. “A nationwide study of ~13,000 lawyers indicated that 28% experienced depression, 19% reported anxiety, 21% had alcohol use problems, and 11% had problems with drug use.”

Lawyers also reported higher stress and loneliness levels, which the report notes are both “well-established” precursors to suicide. “Work-related hazards specific to the legal profession may also contribute to suicide risk. For example, lawyers are expected to work long hours, meet tight deadlines, and handle complex legal issues, all while maintaining a high level of professionalism and client satisfaction,” the report continues.

From Twitter

Ginger Lerner-Wren @JudgeWren

"Survey finds deluge of mental health issues among state’s lawyers #LawyerWellness @NJStateBar @StateCourts @MentalHealthAm @LoriLevin @OHCircuitRider @karibowieHertel @dislaw @goldenerin"

Another report from NORC at the University of Chicago, which measured well-being specifically for lawyers working in Massachusetts, found an eye-opening 77% of lawyers in the state reported burnout, and just under half considered leaving their job or the profession altogether.

The report also indicates approximately 42% of Massachusetts lawyers reported “hazardous or unhealthy alcohol use,” more than one in four reported high anxiety, about one in five reported depression and 7% reported suicidal ideation. A 66% majority, though, reported “overall satisfaction with their lives.”

From Twitter 

K&L Gates LLP @KLGates

PLP 2023.05.16"May is #MentalHealthAwarenessMonth, but the well-being of our lawyers and allied professionals is a year-round priority at our firm. Our Health Matters program strives to eliminate the stigma of seeking help with mental health-related challenges."

For its part, the IWIL says it is up to the legal community to combat this crisis. “When our professional and organizational cultures support our well-being, we are better able to make good choices that allow us to thrive and be our best for our clients, colleagues, organizations, families, and communities. It is up to all of us to cultivate new professional norms and cultures that enable and encourage well-being. Do your part and help spread the word,” reads information from IWIL.

Resources for those seeking help or looking to spread awareness can be found here.

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