Juggling a heavy workload and large doses of stress day in and day out takes its toll on lawyers. They are prone to higher rates of addiction and mental health challenges than the general public. In an attempt to help eliminate the stigma, this article asks law firms to offer the help their attorneys so desperately need. (“Some Law Firms Try To ‘Eliminate Stigma’ From Attorneys Struggling With Mental-Health Issues,” Above the Law, May 22, 2017).
The legal industry is ranked 11th when it comes to suicide rates. A recent study showed that 20.6 percent of those surveyed classified themselves as heavy drinkers, while 28 percent reported experiencing symptoms of depression. Despite these statistics, it is characteristically uncommon for lawyers to look for help because they don’t want to admit they have a problem.
Stigma runs deep in the legal profession. “Our competitors will say we have crazy lawyers,” said Joseph Andrew, the global chairman of Dentons, when asked about offering certain psychological services at his law firm. Statements like this only further stigmatize seeking treatment, when firms should be doing the opposite and breaking down barriers to care.
U.S. law firms are only beginning to offer the support their attorneys need. “We’re trying to eliminate some of the stigma around these issues,” said Tracee Whitley, the U.S. chief of operations at global law firm, Norton Rose Fulbright.
Norton Rose Fulbright has trained 20 of their U.S. employees in Mental Health First Aid. Those people can now spot warning signs of addiction or mental health concerns and offer assistance. Other firms have also taken action, like Hogan & Lovells, which offers the services of an on-site psychologist to all employees.
It is our hope that steps like these will enable healthier, balanced and stable lawyers to thrive in the workplace. Join the Norton Rose Fulbright law firm in implementing our Mental Health First Aid at Work module to provide a skills-based and experiential corporate training program to your employees. They will learn how to notice and support individuals who may be experiencing a mental health or substance use concern or crisis and connect them with appropriate resources.