Ending the Epidemic of Lawyers’ Depression and Substance Abuse Disorders

As you know, we here at Abnormal Use often contribute content to other publications, and this week is no exception. Recently, the American Bar Association’s Tortsource, the official publication of its Tort Trial & Insurance Practice Section, ran a piece by our own Stuart Mauney entitled “Ending the Epidemic of Lawyers’ Depression and Substance Abuse Disorders.” The first few paragraphs are as follows:

We know lawyers are especially vulnerable to depression, suicide, and substance abuse disorders. But why is that? And once we know why, what can we do about it? A lawyer commentator rhetorically asked, “Does the way that lawyers are encouraged to think and work make them vulnerable to depression?” (posted at www.legalcheek.com, Sept. 19, 2013). She began to answer by referencing circumstances familiar to busy lawyers: long hours, heavy workload, and lack of job security. But as she points out, there must be something more insidious at work.

First, she reminds us that lawyers are trained—and often are temperamentally inclined—to analyze and pick apart issues. But we may turn that analytical instinct inward and begin to criticize ourselves. As the commentator suggests, “while a bit of self-analysis can be healthy, brooding on your mistakes can be profoundly self-destructive.”

Further, she says the “prevailing culture of 24/7 availability only makes matters worse.” Then there is the unwritten expectation that lawyers should put their work and law firm first. The lawyer commentator concludes by suggesting that if we are predisposed to depression anyway or suddenly face extra personal or professional pressures, “the way we’re encouraged to think and work can be a
real problem.”

For more, please see the ABA’s website here.

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