By Scott R. Mote, Esq.
The term “wellness” has become very popular the last several years. In response to this, companies are setting up wellness programs for their employees, health insurance companies offer wellness incentives for their clients, people are telling each other to be well, and so on. But what does wellness really mean, and why is it important for lawyers to be well?
Lawyers are more susceptible to be unwell. This sounds harsh, but it is true. According to “The Path to Lawyer Well-Being,” the report of the National Task Force on Lawyer Well-Being, “40% to 70% of disciplinary proceedings and malpractice claims against lawyers involve substance use or depression, and often both.”1
Another study reported that 28% of attorneys suffer from depression, 19% from anxiety and 23% from stress.2 The same study concluded that 20.6% of the participants are problem drinkers.
Because of the stresses of the job, lawyers are prone to burnout, stress, anxiety, substance use and mental health disorders, which is why it is important for them to learn how to be well. The National Wellness Institute says that “Wellness is an active process through which people become aware of, and make choices toward, a more successful existence.”3 To be well, these six areas of wellness need to be optimal:
Occupational: This is how you feel about your job. Your job is rewarding and satisfying. It aligns with your personal values.
Physical: You exercise and eat well.
Social: You are aware of your importance in your community. You build friendships and relationships.
Intellectual: You expand your skills and share your experiences with others.
Spiritual: You know your meaning and purpose in life.
Emotional: You recognize and can control your emotions in a positive manner. Your personal life and work life are separate.
It is difficult to ensure that all of these dimensions of wellbeing are always optimal. If you find that you are not doing as well in the “physical” area of wellbeing, then make arrangements to speak with a dietician, a personal trainer or your doctor. Maybe you feel you can control your emotions in a better way. Start researching about ways you can increase your emotional intelligence.
At times, you might find that one or all areas of your wellbeing are suffering. When your wellbeing suffers, this can lead to depression, anxiety, substance use disorders and other mental health issues. It is important that you get the help you need to enhance your wellbeing. The Ohio Lawyers Assistance Program can help.
OLAP helps lawyers get well in a CONFIDENTIAL way
The Ohio Lawyers Assistance Program assists attorneys with mental health disorders, substance use problems and other process addictions. In the first quarter of 2018, more than half of the files we opened were due to mental health or dual-diagnosis (mental health and substance use disorder). If you are suffering from a mental health issue, you are not alone. OLAP offers confidential and successful help.
If you contact OLAP about yourself or about an attorney colleague, you can rest assured that your call and anything you discuss with OLAP will be protected by strong rules of confidentiality:
Prof. Cond. Rule 8.3(c) provides an exemption from the duty to report knowledge of ethical violations when that knowledge was obtained in the course of OLAP's work.
Code of Judicial Conduct Rule 2.14 provides that information obtained by a member or agent of a bar or judicial association (Judicial Advisory Board) shall be privileged.
R.C. § 2305.28 provides qualified immunity from civil liability for OLAP staff (B and C) and for anyone who provides information to OLAP (D).
If you or someone you know is having problems with substance use (alcohol, street or prescription drugs) or mental health, don't let fears about the disciplinary consequences prevent you from contacting us. No potential disciplinary situation will be made worse by contacting OLAP.
By Scott R. Mote, Executive Director of the Ohio Lawyers Assistance Program.
1 The Path to Lawyer Well-Being: Practical Recommendations for Positive Change” from the National Task Force on Lawyer Well-Being. www.americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/images/abanews/ThePathToLawyerWellBeingReportRevFINAL.pdf.
2 “The Prevalence of Substance Use and Other Mental Health Concerns Among American Attorneys” by Krill, Patrick R. JD, LLM; Johnson, Ryan MA; Albert, Linda MSSW
Journal of Addiction Medicine: January/February 2016 - Volume 10 - Issue 1 - p 46–52.
3 “Challenging the Public Stigma of Mental Illness: A Meta-Analysis of Outcome Studies” by Patrick W. Corrigan, Psy.D.; Scott B. Morris, Ph.D.; Patrick J. Michaels, M.S.; Jennifer D. Rafacz, Ph.D.; Nicolas Rüsch, M.D., October 2012 Vol. 63 No. 10 PSYCHIATRIC SERVICES https://ps.psychiatryonline.org/doi/pdf/10.1176/appi.ps.201100529
3 “The six dimensions of wellness model” by Dr. Bill Hettler. https://www.nationalwellness.org/page/Six_Dimensions
This article was first published by the Stark County Bar Association.