We are approaching the second anniversary of the Covid pandemic, at least measured in the time that many law firms were forced to close offices and have attorneys work from home. That time has seen saddening numbers on illness and death, amazing scientific breakthroughs by the life sciences industry (including clients of our firm), and challenging legal issues (who knew force majeure would return to conjure up contracts class?).
As important as the physical health challenges of Covid — and here’s hoping all our faithful readers have been taking due care — we worry as well about the mental health of the profession.
ALM’s Mental Health and Substance Abuse Survey was conducted about a year ago and another is starting up. The survey input from more than 3,200 respondents. lawyers and professional staff at law firms of all sizes across the globe. It found that more than a third of respondents feel they are depressed, more than two out of three feel they have anxiety, and one in seven feel they have a drug or alcohol problem.
It should be of great concern and greater focus when a majority of legal professionals believe their mental well-being is worse off as a result of their chosen career. And media reports indicate the problem is worsening, not getting better. Clearly the isolation imposed by the pandemic, lockdown issues, and the disruption of work routines have all contributed.
Some firms have instituted programs to help — and that’s a good thing. Experts offer other thoughts:
-Share personal experiences with others to help reduce stigma, when appropriate.
-Be open-minded about the experiences and feelings of colleagues. Respond with empathy, offer peer support, and encourage others to seek help.
-Adopt behaviors that promote stress management and mental health.
-Eat healthy, well-balanced meals, exercise regularly, and try to get enough sleep at night.
-Take part in activities that promote stress management and relaxation, such as yoga, meditation, mindfulness, or tai chi. Do what works for you.
-Build and nurture real-life, face-to-face social connections.
-Take the time to reflect on positive experiences.
-Set and work toward personal, wellness, and work-related goals.
-Most of all, ask for help when it is needed.
Hopefully, we see a light at the end of the tunnel, despite variants, but this is a huge issue for the profession that predated Covid and will not go away with boosters.