It’s World Mental Health Day. How Are You Doing?

October 10, 2023
Kelly McNees

In honor of World Mental Health Day, October 10, we are revisiting the American Lawyer’s 2023 Survey of Mental Health in the Legal Profession, first published back in May. At Page 2, we are fortunate to serve clients across the profession, from firms of all sizes, giving us a window into the wide variety of workplace cultures, practices and leadership styles that shape professional life for lawyers and law firm professionals. Despite the many new initiatives and “wellness statements” crafted during the pandemic, too many firms undercut their purported commitment to lawyer well-being with policies and cultures that lead to burnout or worse. Here are just a few stats from the 2023 report:

  • 71.1% of lawyers surveyed said they had anxiety, an increase of 5% from 2022.
  • Over 50% said they felt “a sense of failure or self-doubt,” “lost emotion,” felt “increasingly cynical and negative,” and had “decreased satisfaction and sense of accomplishment.”
  • Over 60% said they had “physical or mental overwhelm or fatigue,” felt “moody or irritable,” “exhausted,” or “struggled concentrating.”
  • 44% said they knew co-workers who struggled with alcoholism

In short, if you are having a hard time these days, you are far from alone.

We know what firms need to do to relieve the pressure on the human beings who generate their profits: Reduce or eliminate the billable hour. Make lawyers take time off during which they truly unplug. Empower lawyers to set reasonable boundaries with hyper-demanding clients.

Many firms are not taking those steps, and it isn’t fair to shift the responsibility solely to the shoulders of the individuals who work for them. But we do know what can help to manage stress: Regulate your nervous system in whatever way works for you. Get adequate sleep. Exercise. Find a therapist. Nurture a life outside work that is not centered around productivity or achievement. And look out for your colleagues. Extending a hand to someone who is struggling may be the thing that makes a difference for them — and create a sense of belonging that includes you too.

If you are struggling and not sure where to begin, click here for a list of Lawyer Assistance Programs in your region.