Mental Health and Well-Being Resources

From The Practice March/April 2020
For lawyers, law students, and the wider community

Since its advent in 1949, the month of May has been observed as Mental Health Awareness Month in the United States. While this issue has striven to illustrate that wellness extends beyond issues of mental health, The Practice hopes to spotlight the issue in the lead-up to May 2020. Here, we have identified a set of resources that provide helpful information and instructions on maintaining mental health and wellness in the legal community. These resources are not exhaustive but rather meant to provide easy-to-use reference points. We have categorized these resources by target audience.

For Practicing Lawyers

  • Your Employer. Legal employers often have direct, confidential resources available to their lawyers. Reach out to your human resources department to understand what this means for you.
  • The Lawyers Depression Project. Initially founded as a grassroots effort to reduce mental health stigma in the legal profession, LPD today comprises legal professionals of all kinds who have suffered from mental health conditions. The group hosts confidential fora and support groups meetings that allow for anonymity. (For more from the LDP executive board, see “It is Time to Normalize Mental Health Check-Ups.”)
  • The Lawyer Well-Being Tool Kit. The Lawyer Well-Being Tool Kit, published in collaboration with the American Bar Association, discusses the importance of lawyer well-being and suggests methods for improving that well-being from the perspectives of both lawyers and legal employers. These methods include using online resources, evaluating company policy, and creating action plans that include education, events, and activities that promote wellness. As author Anne M. Brafford states, “Lawyers work very hard and take on hefty responsibilities that often have major consequences for clients. The demands that flow from this … can mount and threaten our well-being. When we ignore signs of distress, the quality of our work and lives can plummet.”
  • The Lawyer Well-Being Report. The National Task Force on Lawyer Well-Being, which was conceptualized and initiated by the ABA Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs (CoLAP), the National Organization of Bar Counsel (NOBC), and the Association of Professional Responsibility Lawyers (APRL), has published research and recommendations on improving and maintaining the health of lawyers in “The Path to Lawyer Well-Being: Practical Recommendations for Positive Change.” Their recommendations focus on five central themes: (1) determining stakeholders and roles in the effort to reduce mental health stigma in the legal profession; (2) eliminating that stigma, especially where associated with help-seeking behaviors; (3) stressing that well-being is an essential component of a legal practitioner’s competence; (4) educating lawyers, judges, and law students on lawyer well-being issues; and (5) taking incremental steps to change how law is practiced and how lawyers are regulated to instill greater well-being in the profession.
  • The ABA Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs. The CoLAP website provides daily updates and resources for lawyers, judges, and law students to help combat alcoholism, substance abuse, and mental health disorders and to support their mission of helping lawyers recover, preserve their families, and better serve their clients. This site also links to state-specific Lawyer Assistance Programs.

For Law Students and Law Schools

  • Your Law School. Law Schools often have dedicated wellness resources published on their websites, including around counseling and mental health, mindfulness, religious, athletics, and health services. Check with your dean of students office if you are not sure where to locate these resources.
  • The American Bar Association for Law Students. The American Bar Association’s Mental Health Initiative is a program targeted at students on law school campuses. “With the growing concern of mental health issues on law school campuses across the country, this program confronts some of the major problems by providing a toolkit to the person most capable of creating change: You.” This page provides numerous resources around mental health issues, including blogs, articles, and service websites dedicated to supporting individuals suffering from mental health issues.
  • The ABA Commission on Lawyer Assistant Programs Podcast on the Path to Law Student Well Being. The Path to Law Student Well Being podcast features law students and legal educators discussing relevant issues concerning character and fitness, mental health, and substance use disorders.

For the Wider Community