Confidentiality, Ethics, and Recognizing When Your Colleagues Need Help
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Over the past few years, significant media attention has been given to the high levels of distress and increasing rates of mental health concerns occurring within the legal profession. Stories of lawyer addiction and suicide have been addressed on CNN’s Legal View with Ashleigh Banfield, written about in USA Today, in The Huffington Post and published in ABA publications.
The most recent data was collected from a ground-breaking statistical survey of attorneys circulated nationally by the American Bar Association Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs (COLAP) in conjunction with Hazelden/Betty Ford Foundation. The results, published in the Journal of Addiction Medicine in January/February 2016 shocked our entire profession. For years, it had been reported that lawyers had higher rates of depression and addiction than the general population. That supposition was based primarily on data from 1992 (in a survey of 1200 Washington state lawyers – not exactly a cross-section), and a 1990 John Hopkins study on the mental health of professionals. Some of the data previously relied on was even older than that. The Hazelden/Betty Ford study provided accurate and current statistical data on rates of addiction and impairment extracted from the responses of 13,000 lawyers from across the country. The results?
- Lawyer rates of addiction are between three (3) to five (5) times higher than the general population
- Lawyer rates of depression are over four (4) times higher than the general population
Yvette Hourigan, JD, CEAP, Director
Kentucky Lawyer Assistance Program
John M. Williams, Partner, Williams Kilpatrick, PLLC