On June 27th, the ABA Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs will be hosting a live Twitter Chat on “Suicide Prevention and Postvention in the Legal Profession.” From 1:00 to 2:00pm Eastern time, @ABACoLAP will be discussing the topic over Twitter with special guests, Kate Bender of the Dave Nee Foundation (@NeeFoundation) and Yvette Hourigan of the Kentucky Lawyer Assistance Program (@KYLAPtweets). All are encouraged to follow along by tracking tweets with hashtag #LawyerSuicideAwareness and to participate with questions and comments by using #LawyerSuicideAwareness in your tweets.
For the third year in a row, the Florida Bar Young Lawyers Division (YLD) has designated May as “Health & Wellness Month” to “bring awareness to mental and physical issues that affect the quality of life of lawyers in Florida.” Throughout the month, the YLD will be hosting a series of wellness webinars, issuing “daily challenges” via social media (#livewell and #flayld) and encouraging others to host their own health and wellness events and activities.
The Florida Bar’s 2016 Economics and Law Office Management Survey found that 60 percent of attorneys under age 35 ranked “quality of life” as the second biggest factor impacting their ability to practice law successfully. The YLD is responding by increasing their focus on wellness and mental health.
Hear from YLD President Katherine Hurst Miller, and President-elect Designate Christian George, about their plans to prioritize mental health in The Florida Bar News article, “Bar YLD promotes health and wellness.”
The Alabama State Bar has devoted its most recent issue of The Alabama Lawyer to issues surrounding the stress of practicing law and the resources available through the Bar’s Lawyer Assistance Program (LAP). In it, State Bar President J. Cole Portis shares his own touching story, readers get to “Meet the Alabama Lawyer Assistance Program,” and Robert Thornhill, Director of the Alabama LAP, discusses the effects of stress and how to reduce it. For most of the second half of the issue, six lawyers – some anonymous and some not – recount their struggles with addiction and mental health in a series of articles. By “Sharing Stories of Hope and Redemption,” the Alabama Bar hopes to encourage others who may be struggling, and through open discourse, reduce stigma. The issue ends with a piece on resilience, by Professor Pamela Bucy Pierson at the University of Alabama School of Law.
Stress Awareness Month is a “national, cooperative effort to inform people about the dangers of stress, successful coping strategies, and harmful misconceptions about stress that are prevalent in our society.” It is sponsored by the Health Resource Network (HRN), a non-profit health education organization. Throughout the month, HRN works to encourage others to develop and disseminate educational materials and to hold events dedicated to stress awareness.
In 2016, ABA CoLAP and the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation conducted a study to examine alcohol use, substance abuse, mental health issues and help-seeking behaviors of lawyers. Twenty-three percent of respondents reported experiencing mild or higher levels of stress.
Visit the CoLAP website for resources and articles on stress in the legal profession.
On April 3, 2017, the Illinois Supreme Court amended Rule 794(d) of its Continuing Legal Education Requirements to bolster diversity, substance use and mental health training in the profession. Starting July 1, 2017, lawyers in Illinois will be required to complete at least one hour of continuing legal education in the area of diversity and inclusion and at least one hour in the area of mental health and substance abuse to satisfy their Professional Responsibility CLE obligations.
The changes do not increase the total number of hours needed to fulfill the professional responsibility requirement, and attorneys will still be permitted take the year-long Lawyer-to-Lawyer Mentoring Program as an alternative.
This comes not long after the ABA House of Delegates approved changes to its CLE Model Rule, adding diversity and substance use or mental health requirements.
Back in January we posted about a “mailbag” column inviting readers to submit their mental health and substance use questions to Patrick Krill, strategic advisor to law firms on addiction and mental health problems.
Most recently, a reader asked, “What advice do you have for a busy lawyer to get help for an addiction and mental health problem without suffering a career setback? I have a colleague who should really take some time off and get well, but she is unwilling to step away from her practice out of fear of losing any part of what she has built.”
Read Krill’s response, “How to Get Addiction Treatment Without Killing Your Legal Career” at LAW.COM.
The ABA Law Student Division has selected today, March 28th, as the official National Mental Health Day at law schools across the country. Law schools are encouraged to sponsor educational programs and events that teach and foster breaking the stigma associated with severe depression and anxiety among law students and lawyers.
Looking for ideas on what to share? Try these:
- “The Besden Redemption” video, a personal story of addiction and recovery (available in a 30 and 3-minute version)
- “Substance Abuse and Mental Health Toolkit for Law Students and Those Who Care About Them”
- Free recording of the ABA webinar, “Fierce & Gritty: Resilience Training for Lawyers”
- Free recording of the ABA webinar, “I’ve Got Your Back; You’ve Got My Ear: Suicide Prevention in the Legal Profession”
- Free recording of the ABA webinar, “Keeping Legal Minds Intact: Mitigating Compassion Fatigue Among Legal Professionals”
- 2016 Study: “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”
- 2016 Study: “The Prevalence of Substance Use and Other Mental Health Concerns Among American Attorneys”
Lawyer Assistance Programs provide confidential services and support to judges, lawyers and law students who are facing substance use disorders or mental health issues. If you or someone you know is in need of assistance, contact your state or local LAP. Access a directory of lawyer assistance programs here.