Authored By: Iris Garrett
It is not hard to believe that lawyers lead stressful lives. Between getting no sleep, working long hours, and researching cases that would be hard for any regular person to stomach, no one would blame attorneys if their lives got a little too hard to handle. Yet, despite how easy it may be to sympathize with their demanding lifestyles, there is a huge stigma surrounding mental health issues when it comes to the legal field.
According to an article in Above the Law, lawyers are not only prone to addiction and depression, but they struggle with these issues at higher rates than the general population. Recent studies have shown 20.6% of lawyers classify themselves as heavy drinkers and 28% experience symptoms of depression. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also report that the legal field has the 11th highest suicide rate. These alarming numbers aside, the article says many attorneys choose not to seek out help because they are afraid to admit they have a problem (and their fears may be warranted).
The article says many law firms are hesitant to offer their employees psychological help for their mental-health issues because of privacy concerns. It says firms are worried it “would send the wrong message” or “competitors will say we have crazy lawyers,” statements that only further stigmatize those needing assistance or substance-abuse treatment. Additionally, if help is offered, the article says often times it is too late, and an employee’s performance has already fallen off.
However, there is light at the end of the tunnel. According to Above the Law, there are a handful of law firms tackling these issues head-on, offering on-site psychologists, weaving mental-health initiatives alongside their wellness programs, and training staff to spot changes in employee behavior. The article says if the firms worried about having “crazy lawyers” added services like these, they would create a more healthy work environment and produce more “stable, well-adjusted lawyers”.
Photo Credit: Elizabeth Engle