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Balanced Living
By Tabitha M. Hochscheid
he practice of law can be a roller
coaster. Some days you have in-
credible highs and other days
nothing goes right. We see the real life
consequences of stress and its byproducts
all the time. You open the
or the Ohio State Bar Associa-
and see stories of attorney
discipline. The root of many cases is
substance abuse and/or mental illness.
For years, under the mandate of the Ohio
Supreme Court, we have all sat through
substance abuse education courses.
Education as a tool to prevent substance
abuse has helped dozens of attorneys,
but it fails to address the mental health
issues underlying the abuse. In essence,
telling someone to refrain from abus-
ing substances alone is akin to putting a
Band-Aid on a puncture wound. Further,
what about the other members of the Bar
who don’t drink but still have mental
and physical effects of too much stress?
Why must an attorney have a disciplin-
ary problem before seeking and receiving
treatment? What happens when there is
no disciplinary issue?
Our profession is clearly reactionary.
If a person has disciplinary issues the Bar
requires they seek supervised treatment
from the Ohio Lawyers Assistance Pro-
gram (OLAP). OLAP, like many lawyers
assistance programs across the country,
was initially developed to help lawyers
with alcohol and substance abuse is-
sues. However, as the practice of law has
changed, so have the needs of lawyers.
The incidence of referrals to OLAP solely
for alcohol or substance abuse is now just
20%. This is a dramatic decrease from
when the program first started. However,
OLAP has seen mental health referrals
rise to 40% and in addition, those with
a co-diagnosis of mental health and
substance abuse are now 40% as well.
Clearly, alcohol and substance abuse is
only one part of the equation and is often
times the result of an underlying mental
health issue. We, as a profession, have
been slow to address this growing trend.
We accept stress and its byproducts as
part of the practice of law. Many of us are
constantly striving to find a right balance
between work and home life. We feel the
need for something more than just striv-
ing to make a living and meet the ever
growing client demand for immediate
Perhaps the legal education system
is part of the problem. After all, statis-
tics show that by the second year of law
school 40% of all students are depressed.
This is before they face the challenges of
the practice of law. Worse yet, depres-
sion in law school can be a preview of
later issues. Lawyers, sadly, have higher
than normal depression rates — 3.6
times higher than the general popula-
tion, which means 34.2% of attorneys
may suffer from depression. Attorneys
also suffer from anxiety, a precursor to
depression, at a rate two times higher
than the general population, meaning
36.2% of lawyers may suffer from anxiety
disorders. Even worse, studies have
shown that attorneys are six times more
likely to commit suicide than the general
population. In other words, one-third of
practicing attorneys are either depressed
or have anxiety disorders. And if they are
depressed, there is a 15% chance they will
commit suicide. Combine these num-
bers with the downturn in the economy,
staggering student loan debt, layoffs, and
a stagnant job market and you have a
climate which is right for mental health
and stress related issues to present them-
When does our profession start pri-
oritizing the well-being of its members?
Perhaps the first sign of this need could
be the required professionalism courses.
Could our behavior toward one another
be a sign of the stress we are under? Isn’t
it better to provide information and sup-
port for practicing attorneys before they
have issues? What do you do when a per-
son you know is struggling? What should
the Cincinnati Bar Association’s role be
in these matters? These are the questions
I posed to the Cincinnati Bar Association
CBA Forms New Committee Focused on Attorney
Health and Well-Being
Many of us are constantly striving to find a right
balance between work and home life. We feel the
need for something more than just striving to
make a living and meet the ever growing client
demand for immediate responses.
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