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Elephant in the Legal Office: Confronting Realities of Mental Health and Addiction


Elephant in the Legal Office: Confronting Realities of Mental Health and Addiction

Rates of substance use go up for certain professions, including healthcare providers and those on the frontline of caring for those needing emergency care like firefighters and emergency medical technicians. Lawyers are no different in that they struggle with mental health disorders and addiction at a higher rate than the average population. The challenge is facing this elephant in the legal office and learning how to support colleagues struggling with addiction.

Why Lawyers Suffer

Anxiety is a fact of life for people today, many living with higher than normal levels on a daily basis. This high level of anxiety is leading people to find other ways of coping with stress that accompanies anxiety. With anxiety often follows mental health issues like depression. Significantly higher for lawyers are levels of depression, anxiety, and stress which can lead to problematic alcohol and drug use. There is an availability and social acceptability within the legal profession that makes ‘work drinks’ and ‘after work drinks’ the norm for some legal offices. This acceptability may lead some people to think more than just a few drinks is the norm and that doing this on a regular basis, because it is accepted, is justified.

The Giant Elephant

Decades of research have consistently reported higher than normal prevalence of alcohol and drug use, depression, stress, and anxiety for young and older lawyers alike. When compared even with doctors, lawyers seem to have higher rates of substance abuse. There seems to be little if any effort to open dialogue amongst professionals in the law in order to start tackling this challenging issue. A growing desire does exist, however, to find ways of incorporating wellness and mindfulness in the legal profession. This is tempered by lawyers and paralegals feeling shame and isolation from others suffering from the same condition.

Finding Help

There is no one-size-fits-all solution for this issue. There are things that can be done to improve mental health and addiction treatment for people in the law profession. This might include:

  • Starting a dialogue to start engaging people around what a healthier legal profession looks like. Wellness workshops and support groups can be helpful  for those who struggle
  • Gather information by surveying people in the workplace about their mental, emotional, and psychological health
  • Value your own well-being including mental, physical, and emotional health and what you need. Find ways of implementing small changes including yoga, meditation, and mindfulness then invite others to come along on the journey

In order to make changes in the legal profession that move everyone towards greater understanding of the risks and challenges facing lawyers and legal professionals, greater awareness is needed. With awareness, more tools and resources can be helpful to understand how to support someone who may be struggling. Serenity Recovery Detox provides a safe, non-judgmental space in which to engage people needing support for detox and recovery from addiction. Support for co-occurring substance use and mental health disorders is available and our professionals are ready to provide individualized, confidential support for the journey of healing in recovery from addiction.

Simple Recovery is a world-renowned, California state-licensed substance abuse recovery center. We offer dual diagnosis treatment, so if you are experiencing both substance abuse and symptoms of a mental disorder, call us today at 888-743-0490 so that we can work with you to restore your happiness, health, and well-being. You do not have to continue living this way; there are many people here ready to help you.