When we talk of the legal profession, there tends to be this aesthetical mindset of it being glamorous, well-paying and an epitome of excellence. A spot-on illustration of this ideology would be the legal drama series, Suits. It has such an alluring storyline and in it the lawyers went to Ivy League institutions, are paid extremely attractive salaries and bonuses, handle top-notch transactions, ooze class (because they can afford luxury), pay immense attention to detail and are perfectionists.
This perception idealises the legal profession and a lot of people compete to join prestigious institutions to be a part of this honorable profession to make an impact and at the at the same time enjoy the perks that come with it.
Unfortunately, this is the general public’s expectation but the sad reality is that this is not what happens in real time. There is a high level of expectation towards legal professionals. Lawyers are deemed to be the image of perfection and strength, unbreakable and invulnerable to stress. Society is not aware of the mental implication of the work lawyers do but the bigger problem is lawyers not admitting or saying out loud that the work they do takes a toll on their mental health.
What is the definition of mental health?
Mental health refers to cognitive, behavioural, and emotional well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. The term “mental health” can also be used to mean the absence of a mental disorder.
In a recent report by the World Health Organisation, one out of four people are likely to have a mental health condition in their lifetime. This vividly portrays mental health as a prevalent issue that requires open conversation and awareness and the legal profession is not immune to it.
Mental Health & The Legal Profession
The legal profession is diverse and people can work in any sector, from advertising, banking, and insurance, to law firms, audit firms, the government, non-profit organisations, the health sector and many more. However, the legal workplace is not considered a sensitive one especially law firms.
According to research by John Hopkins University, lawyers are, on average, 3.6 times more likely to suffer from depression as people in other professions. A study done by the American Bar Association in 2016 found that 28% of licensed and employed American lawyers suffered from depression, 19% demonstrated symptoms of anxiety and 21% qualified as problem drinkers.
This vividly illustrates the unhealthy levels of pressure and the stressful environment in the profession.
Delving deeper, these are the reasons that portray the susceptibility to mental health issues in the legal profession:
How can we remedy the situation:
Mental health is a conversation that needs to be louder within the legal profession. To ensure optimum productivity and a less-stressful environment, perceptions around mental health need to be changed and we, as lawyers, need to embrace the fact that we are not bullet proof or impervious to weakness. Vulnerability is strength.
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