Stigma, shame, and fear. These obstacles frequently play a major role in an individual’s decision not to seek help when suffering from mental health and substance use disorders. Too often, lawyers, judges, and law students find themselves wrestling privately with frustration and despair as an addiction or mental health problem dominates their life and threatens their career.
A groundbreaking study in 2016 revealed that at least one in five practicing lawyers are currently experiencing a substance use disorder, and even more lawyers are experiencing symptoms of depression or anxiety. Our profession is facing a significant problem, and you may have observed these struggles in a friend, colleague, or perhaps have experienced them yourself. Unfortunately, the stigma attached to mental health and substance use disorders continues to keep many from ever asking for help. They suffer in silence, sometimes dying as a result.
With growing evidence of distress and dysfunction, the well-being of our profession has come into sharper focus, and there is a heightened willingness to act. The ABA’s Commission on Lawyers Assistance Programs (CoLAP) is creating a profession-wide video campaign with high-quality videos that highlight the personal recovery stories of lawyers, judges, and law students who have overcome these issues. We seek to raise awareness about the nature of addiction and mental health distress in our profession and to challenge the biases and stigma that surround those problems.
These videos will be available in 2019 and will send the message that recovery from addiction and mental health problems is entirely possible for legal professionals. Our goal is to ensure that fewer of our colleagues face these challenges alone.
Read the Report
To learn more about this issue and read The Path to Lawyer Well-Being: Practical Recommendations for Positive Change from the National Task Force on Lawyer Well-Being, visit lawyerwellbeing.net