Mental health is always a relevant topic, but the current situation with the COVID-19 pandemic highlights the importance of self-care, support and awareness needed to maintain good mental health. The ABA’s Commission on Lawyer’s Assistance Programs has provided a number of mental health resources for legal professionals that may be helpful during these challenging and unpredictable times.
Even during relatively normal times, the law is a profession that requires extensive “brain power” for critical thinking, analytical reasoning, logic, focus, attention and recall. As professionals, the “output” or “product” that we create is the documentation of our ideas and advice. None of this work can be done at its best without taking care of our mental health.
What is mental health? Simply stated, it is our emotional, psychological and social well-being. It comprises how we feel and how we react to the world. To be sure, we all have “good” days and “bad” days, but compromised mental health, in the form of depression, anxiety or other mental disorders, can take an enormous toll on our lives and careers.
Lawyers, paralegals and support staff may face greater mental health challenges because of the nature of our work. Clients bring legal professionals the most difficult problems of their lives and demand they be resolved favorably. Expectations are high and deadlines are ever-looming. In 2018, the American Bar Association, in conjunction with the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation, completed a study titled, The Prevalence of Substance Use and Other Mental Health Concerns Among American Attorneys, which concluded,
“Attorneys experience problematic drinking that is hazardous, harmful, or otherwise consistent with alcohol use disorders at a higher rate than other professional populations. Mental health distress is also significant. These data underscore the need for greater resources for lawyer assistance programs, and also the expansion of available attorney-specific prevention and treatment interventions.”