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Being an attorney can be stressful. It requires skills in time management, people management, business administration, bookkeeping -- not to mention meeting strict filing deadlines while upholding ethical standards and exercising due diligence on behalf of clients. The stress of practice can often wear on a practitioner's mental health.
Mental health is really important. An attorney that isn't taking care of their health, either physical or mental, is doing their clients a disservice. A person doesn't need to have a diagnosable mental health condition in order to be cognizant of, and take actions to maintain and protect, their own mental health. For attorneys, failing to do so can have real consequences for both you and your clients.
Eliminating the Stigma of Mental Health Treatment
In a recently released report on lawyer well-being, substance abuse, and mental health, some new recommendations are identified to help the entire legal profession. One of the major recommendations individual attorneys can help to shape is by changing their own views on mental health treatment. The stigmatization of mental health care actually does cause people who really need help to avoid getting it.
Stop thinking of therapy, or any kind of self-care related to mental health, as something required to treat an illness, condition, or other thing that's "wrong" with a person. While mental health care can do all this, professionals are recommending preventative mental health care more and more these days. Just like you get blood tests every year to make sure your cholesterol hasn't shot through the roof thanks to the weekly red meat buffet at the partner's favorite exotic meeting location, getting regular mental health check-ups is a good idea for every lawyer.
Your Client Needs You Healthy and Sober
You're not a stereotype of a poet or artist -- at least not while performing your duties as an attorney. Your best legal work will not come while entranced in some cave of depression where you are self-medicating with alcohol or illegal, non-prescribed, drugs.
In fact, you're likely to harm a client's case, if you have a mental health breakdown, or substance abuse problem, and are not ready to tackle it head on. There are many practicing attorneys with mental health conditions; the trick is staying ahead of any issues. That means monitoring, professional assistance, regular self-assessments, and having an emergency plan ready.