ABA Immediate Past-President Paulette Brown calls on the profession to help LAPs reduce stigma

Paulette Brown, Immediate Past President of the ABA, was the keynote speaker at the recent ABA National Conference for Lawyer Assistance Programs in Vancouver. She also participated in a panel discussion and talked informally with conference attendees. She remarked on the outstanding work that Lawyer Assistance Programs are doing in this area, and that LAP resources and innovative approaches have helped many to find success in a profession that they love. Ms. Brown discussed the ABA Diversity and Inclusion 360 Commission, with its focus on the concept of implicit biases, those unconscious influences on our decisions and actions. She noted that implicit bias can be and is manifested toward those who suffer from mental health issues, depression, anxiety and substance problems in our profession.

Here are some highlights of her remarks.

While there has been some progress on expanding opportunities for lawyers of all races and ethnicities, women and members of the LGBTQ community, the same cannot be said for those with mental illness or substance use disorders. As all of us here know, mental health and substance use disorders are by far the most pervasive and ignored disability issues in our profession. It is similar to issues faced by people in the LGBTQ community – you can’t tell by looking. It must be acceptable for people to ‘come out’ with mental health issues just as it is becoming acceptable to do so in the LGBTQ community.

Implicit bias and stigma force our colleagues into the shadows. It is important to address these conditions before they become issues. We cannot avoid them and hope they will go away. Our colleagues do not feel safe revealing a mental health or substance issue. Many will not seek the assistance they need unless and until the stigma is removed. This can only begin to happen if we recognize and acknowledge our implicit biases in this area. Like other areas of diversity and inclusion, the legal profession is far behind many other professions in the manner in which it treats those who struggle with mental health and substance use issues.

Implicit bias permeates everything we do. Lawyer Assistance Programs see it in the work they do every day where someone is treated differently (or perceives they are treated differently) because they asked for help. When we think about disability issues in our profession, mental health is by far the most common area of disability. It should be recognized in discussions, trainings and other efforts to enhance diversity and inclusion in our profession. Perhaps then people needing help can seek the attention they need with less trepidation about reaching out. It is the only way to remove stigma.

A discussion about open and equal treatment is necessary. These issues need to be part of conversations on diversity and inclusion in the legal profession. It is not enough to be contained in this room or at this conference. We should not be reticent about talking about it anywhere, any place. All must work together to reduce stigma about mental health and substance issues in our profession. If we could convey this message over and over on a broad based stage, how many more could we serve?

And as LAPs we would add, how many more could we save?

This post was written by Joan Bibelhausen, Executive Director of Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers in Minnesota and ABA CoLAP Advisory Committee Member. 

 

 

SPRC Releases Two New Resources on Suicide Prevention for Middle-Aged Men

The Suicide Prevention Resource Center (SPRC) has recently released two new resources on suicide prevention among middle-aged men.

The first is a video titled, Men in the Middle Years, part of the SPRC’s SPARK Talks series—Short, Provocative, Action-oriented, Realistic, and Knowledgeable videos of leaders in suicide prevention.

The second is a report titled, Preventing Suicide among Men in the Middle Years: Recommendations for Suicide Prevention Programs, which includes research on suicide among men ages 35–64, recommendations and guidance for suicide prevention programs and a list of programs and resources.

 

Resilience Webinar: Don’t Forget to Register…

ABA Free CLE Series Webinar
December 19, 2016 | 1:00 PM – 2:30 PM ET

As lawyers, many people depend on us to be at our best. This includes our clients, who depend on us to guide, help, and protect them. It also includes our families and friends, for whom we want to be our best selves. Developing resilience is critical for lawyers to maintain fitness to practice and to avoid running afoul of the Model Rules of Professional Conduct or applicable state rules. We need to be able to bounce back quickly from setbacks, face challenges with a positive perspective, and feel energized rather than depleted. Fortunately, resilience is a collection of competencies that can be developed. This webinar will provide a general overview of how to build resilience, including strategies taught by the U.S. Army to soldiers in combat. Participants will have the opportunity to ask questions of our paneled experts.

Sponsored by the following American Bar Association groups:
ABA Legal Career Central
Center for Professional Development
Center for Professional Responsibility
Commission On Disability Rights
Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs
Criminal Justice Section
Health Law Section
Law Practice Division Attorney Well-being Committee
Legal Aid and Indigent Defendants
Section of Family Law
Solo, Small Firm and General Practice Division
Tort, Trial and Insurance Practice Committee
Young Lawyers Division Fit2Practice Wellness Initiative

Other Co-Sponsors:
Association of Professional Responsibility Lawyers (APRL)
National Organization of Bar Counsel (NOBC)

REGISTER NOW

Judge Beth Gibson Shares Her Story of Codependency

In a recent Perspectives article from the ABA Commission on Women in the Profession, Judge Beth Gibson shares what it was like being in a codependent relationship with an alcoholic husband. Her candid story demonstrates how the devastating effects of substance use disorders are far-reaching – affecting family, clients and colleagues – and how those closest to the afflicted face challenges of their own to overcome.

Read, “A Harrowing Journey Through Codependency,” by Judge Beth Gibson, here.

NY State Bar Seeks LAP Director

Description of open LAP Director position from the New York State Bar Association:

The New York State Bar Association, a non-profit professional organization, is seeking applicants for the position of Director of the Association’s Lawyer Assistance Program, which provides educational outreach and confidential assistance to lawyers, judges, law students and their family members who are affected by the problems of alcoholism, substance abuse, or mental health issues. The Director will be responsible for maintaining relationships with the legal community and treatment providers to develop educational programs and recruit and train volunteers to work with impaired judges, attorneys, or law students.

Click here for more details and to apply. 

 

 

Fierce & Gritty: Resilience Training for Lawyers

ABA Free CLE Series Webinar
December 19, 2016 | 1:00 PM – 2:30 PM ET

As lawyers, many people depend on us to be at our best. This includes our clients, who depend on us to guide, help, and protect them. It also includes our families and friends, for whom we want to be our best selves. Developing resilience is critical for lawyers to maintain fitness to practice and to avoid running afoul of the Model Rules of Professional Conduct or applicable state rules. We need to be able to bounce back quickly from setbacks, face challenges with a positive perspective, and feel energized rather than depleted. Fortunately, resilience is a collection of competencies that can be developed. This webinar will provide a general overview of how to build resilience, including strategies taught by the U.S. Army to soldiers in combat. Participants will have the opportunity to ask questions of our paneled experts.

The learning objectives for this program include the following:

  • Provide an overview of factors and competencies that contribute to resilience
  • Understand the scientific evidence that resilience competencies are positively associated with well-being and business outcomes, such as engagement and retention
  • Learn at least one skill that contributes to resilience

Sponsored by:

ABA Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs
ABA Law Practice Division Attorney Well-being Committee
ABA Center for Professional Development

REGISTER NOW

Report on the Survey of Law Student Well-Being

In the spring of 2014, fifteen law schools around the country participated in the Survey of Law Student Well-Being (SLSWB). A comprehensive report of the findings is now available in the Autumn 2016 issue of the Journal of Legal Education. As stated in the report, “The SLSWB is the first multischool study in over twenty years to address law student use of alcohol and street drugs, and the first-ever multischool study to explore prescription drug use and the mental health concerns and help-seeking attitudes of law students.”

Access, “Suffering in Silence: The Survey of Law Student Well-Being and the Reluctance of Law Students to Seek Help for Substance Use and Mental Health Concerns,” by Jerome M. Organ, David B. Jaffe, and Katherine M. Bender, Ph.D.

The study was administered with a grant from the American Bar Association (ABA) Enterprise Fund, sponsored by the ABA Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs, Law Student Division, Solo, Small Firm and General Practice Division, Young Lawyers Division and Commission on Disability Rights, as well as with support from the Dave Nee Foundation.