Monday, December 31, 2018

Out with the Old; In with the New! Promoting Mental Health Awareness

I am finishing up the last of my grading (grades are due on Wednesday).  Nevertheless (or maybe for the purpose of grading avoidance), I have been determined all day to take a pause to reflect on 2018 and look forward to 2019.  For me (and perhaps for us all), 2018 was a year with both joys and sorrows; achievements and failures; ups and downs.  I admit that 2018's sorrows were more abundant than usual--or than I would have liked.  And so, I am primed to kick 2018 to the curb.  Ready or not, 2019 will be here in a few short hours.  I have much to look forward to in the coming year--a research leave, my son's wedding, and lots more that I know I am forgetting or do not even know about yet!

Among my more serious reflections and (dare I say it) resolutions heading into 2019 is self-care.  I am particularly mindful of the need for lawyers and lawyers-in-waiting (our students) to be aware of an attendant to their mental health.  A few days ago, The American Lawyer published an article entitled After a Year Marked by Tragedy, Attorney Mental Health Takes the Spotlight.  The article highlights industry-wide and organizational efforts to boost mental health awareness and support.  It also notes that "[l]aw school curricula and continuing legal education classes have already begun to take mental health into account . . . .  [P]eople throughout the industry are searching for concrete ways to address structural issues."  This article followed on many others this past year, including those here and here and here.

I applaud these institutional initiatives and publications.  We need more press about lawyer mental health.  And we must invest in and acquire the comprehensive tools that continuing education and workplace programs can provide.  I, for one, desire to know a lot more than I do about both lawyer mental health and lawyer substance abuse.  If you are knowledgeable in either area, please send links to resources along by email or post suggestions in the comments.

In my heart, however, I know that broad-based awareness and guidance on lawyer mental health, while necessary, is insufficient to the task.  I have come to the view that it would be meaningful if each of us could step back from the madness of life more than once in a while to assess not only our own well-being, but also the well-being of those around us.  An increased knowledge base is important to the task, but a heightened level of personal commitment also is required.  I will be working toward that commitment in 2019 and hope that some of you will join me.

Happy new year to all!  May you have a joyous and healthy 2019.

Joan Heminway | Permalink


Important topic, Joan. This article suggests that more and more students are struggling with mental health issues (or at least students are becoming more open about their struggles). By these numbers, it seems likely that each of us has a handful of students in every class with serious mental health struggles - a good thing for us professors to keep in mind.

Posted by: Haskell Murray | Jan 1, 2019 1:50:21 PM

Yes, Haskell. Thanks for picking up on that specifically. I have seen other data on this, too. That is part of why I am redoubling my efforts in gaining knowledge and promoting awareness. I appreciate the comment and the link.

Posted by: joanheminway | Jan 1, 2019 1:56:23 PM

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