Mental Health Awareness Month for Lawyers

May is Mental Health Awareness month. For lawyers, this month is incredibly important as it is well researched that lawyers suffer from mental health problems. Research suggests that lawyers quietly cope with depression, chronic stress, and drinking problems. Unfortunately, many lawyers are reluctant to seek help and see these struggles as just part of the job. 

A recent study on lawyers yet again highlights that lawyers struggle with mental health difficulties. Researchers found that younger attorneys were 2-4 times more likely to report moderate to high levels of stress (Anker & Krill, 2021). High workloads may contribute to the difficulties faced– 67% of the sample reported working 40 or more hours a week, with 22% reporting that they work over 51 hours a week. This may reflect unrealistic expectations and productivity requirements that threaten the mental and physical health of attorneys.

In addition to overworking, 30% of the lawyers in the sample reported high-risk hazardous drinking that is reflective of alcohol abuse or dependence. However, only 2% of attorneys reported ever having alcohol abuse disorder. This suggests underdiagnosis and lack of treatment for alcohol problems, which may stem from denial, stigma, or the normalization of heavy alcohol use among lawyers. Interestingly, the study found that women engage in risky alcohol use more than men. More women also reported elevated levels of stress, anxiety, and depression, highlighting a disparity that exists in the legal field that needs to be addressed. 

The statistics are clear: lawyers need to take time to focus on their mental health. But that is easier said than done, especially when you are working over 40 hours a week! You also know what to do, such as eating right, getting enough sleep, exercising, and limiting alcohol consumption, but isn’t it easier to ignore your body’s basic needs? Absolutely. However, if you do what you’ve always done, you’re going to get what you’ve always got. So, now is the time to develop new, healthier habits and to be intentional with protecting your mental and physical health. 

If you don’t know where to start, it may be helpful to look at what tasks and responsibilities you can delegate to others. Learning to say ‘no’ is hard, but is important for freeing up time for yourself. Another simple thing you can do is practice deep breathing and mindfulness to reduce stress and help you focus on tasks more effectively. 

There are many other techniques that you can try to help you cope with the stressors of work and the staff at TLC-VR is here to help you. Contact us if you are interested in learning more about our custom resilience curriculum for you and your office staff!

Citation: Anker J, Krill PR (2021). Stress, drink, leave: An examination of gender-specific risk factors for mental health problems and attrition among licensed attorneys. PLoS ONE 16(5): e0250563.