I recently wrote about lawyers and their mental health struggles…but apparently I underestimated this problem greatly. In a recent article in the Fulton County Daily Report, dated February 2, 2020, 32% of the 3,800 lawyers who responded to their poll said they were depressed, 64% feel they have anxiety, over 10% say they have an alcohol problem and almost 3% say they have a drug dependency problem. Those who conduct these type of surveys say that most likely these numbers are low because most people participating in the survey under reported their problems.
Why is this so? The article cites to 4 reasons for these increasing mental health problems: being always on call and unable to disconnect, billable hour's pressure, lack of sleep and client demands.
The lawyer who genuinely cares about his/her clients does tend to take the client's problems home at the end of the day. There is a lot of trauma, emotional, financial trauma, that the lawyer's clients struggle with and these clients present that trauma to the lawyer from the time the client seeks representation, to the end. And even at the end, the results may not be wholly satisfactory. Frankly, I get rather emotionally charged up when insurance companies and their billable hour drone lawyers delay and deny my client's medical care and weekly disability benefits. I see my client's pain, I listen to their very real struggles, their loss of relationships, repossessions of their vehicles, spiraling downward mental health and ever increasing depression. But what do I do with these feelings? They cannot be just turned off at the end of the day.
Maybe us lawyers just have a lack of a balance to our lives. We subordinate our health, our family, our integrity and many other things that matter most. Balance and peace of mind are not produced by work itself. “A person needs to develop a clear sense of his or her highest priorities and live with focus and integrity toward them, “says Stephen R. Covey in his world famous book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (pg, 18).
Covey highly values a Personal Mission Statement. What if we incorporated these thoughts into our daily lives? Maybe there would be less depression, anxiety, and alcohol and drug abuse. Consider the following:
Seek divine help: Never compromise with honesty; Hear both sides before judging; Obtain counsel of others; Defend those who are absent; Keep a sense of humor; Listen twice as long as you speak. (Id at Pg. 174)
These principles must be the core of our lives. Yet too many of us, lawyers included, have no core, no central value system. Without it we are set adrift in a world full of change that we cannot deal with.
Johann Goethe was a famous and writer and statesman in the 1700's in Germany. Among other things, he said, “Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least.” I am committed to keeping this thought centered most in my mind's eye. It keeps me properly centered. So what are those “things that mater most?” That is the subject of another writing next week. Stay connected.