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May is Mental Health Awareness Month. In recognition of this, there are numerous articles about promoting lawyer well-being you can find online. That law firms need to prioritize mental health is not new information. By now, it's well-established that the demands of the legal profession can exact a toll on attorneys in the form of anxiety, depression, burnout, and substance use disorder.
Fortunately, law firms have begun to provide resources on dealing with mental health. But it's not easy to change the culture of an industry that is inherently traditional and where working impossibly long hours has been a badge of honor for decades. This means that most of the resources for addressing attorney wellness are reactive, undertaken only when someone feels like managing mental health has become overwhelming.
This is, perhaps, the biggest obstacle lawyers face to working on their mental health: that it isn't something to address unless it is absolutely essential to save their careers. But mental health, like physical health, is also about preventive care. Here are some tips on improving participation in well-being and mental health initiatives for every lawyer at your firm.
No one should overlook the strides made in recent years by law firms and the legal industry. There are more resources than ever for attorneys to stay healthy. And many firms have done an admirable job of reducing the stigma associated with getting treatment for depression, anxiety, and substance use.
Yet, a lot of work remains. Much of it has less to do with having resources in place — which attorneys may or may not use — but with creating a culture in which attorneys feel comfortable reaching out when needed (or ideally, even before it is necessary).
Three suggestions include:
If you are new to the issue of mental health in the legal profession, FindLaw has resources for firms looking to implement a mental health and substance use policy. For individual attorneys, we also offer resources on how to manage anxiety, depression, and burnout, along with a few anonymous self-assessments you can take to begin thinking about your own mental health.
For law firms, the American Bar Association has an action plan to address mental health in the workplace.
Take care of yourselves.
Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.
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