Did you know a large number of criminal defence lawyers in Australia struggle with depression and other mental health issues?
It’s no secret the profession is riddled with high pressure, uncertainty, and a crazy workload. If you’re a lawyer, or know one, you’ll probably know how a big chunk of the day is spent reading.
Beyondblue, a national depression service, found in 2007 that lawyers have the largest depression rate among different professions. Similarly criminal defence lawyers of Australia in the making – our students – are more affected by mental health issues compared to those in medicine, and other faculties.
Criminal defence lawyers in Australia encounter much distress. There’s yet to be a clear single answer to this is, however there are some interrelated things linked to the persistence of this…
1. Highly competitive – additionally to fighting for grades through law school, newly graduated criminal defence lawyers in Australia also struggle finding employment.
2. Heavy workloads, feelings of inadequacy due to progress, peer pressure, and a lack of feedback to improve with.
3. High expectations – while true in many professions, the satisfaction of completing duties for the criminal defence lawyers of Australia is notoriously dependent on others. As the work is about situations with profound emotions and consequences, this is often difficult to obtain.
What can we do?
Criminal defence lawyers in Australia encounter much distress from university, right into legal practice. This has also meant higher levels of substance abuse.
A most important step now is to think about how to help resolve this widespread issue – 25 years of studies have shown a similar case among US solicitors. Good initiatives to promote include…
1. Reducing the stigma
The issue has been surrounded by a cloud of stigma. This is slowly breaking down as it’s being brought to our attention.
Nonetheless it’s important for criminal defence lawyers in Australia, and all of us for that matter, to remember there will alway be someone who’ll listen and understand, and that at the end of the day, it’s of utmost importance to be honest with ourselves.
Legal professionals can learn to identify in themselves (and others!) warning signs that they may be having trouble coping. This will differ from person to person, and can manifest physically as well as mentally.
Symptoms include but are definitely not limited to: trouble concentrating, skin breakouts, becoming less social, and impatience.
It’s always important for one to take time out to nurture themselves and do things they enjoy, but perhaps when signs like the above are noticed, it’s even more crucial for criminal defence lawyers in Australia to seek a serious work detox.
3. More supportive legal firms
It is important for the work environments of criminal defence lawyers in Australia to encourage reasonable hours. Not to the extent that they are forced to go into ‘survival mode’, and run the risk of having their health compensated.
Firms may develop in-house programs to promote mental health, and provide a supportive space in which workers can seek help…
4. Promotion of mental health in law school
The same idea can be actioned in universities. Extending on this, our criminal defence lawyers in Australia, in the making, can be provided with on and off-campus support – the latter including links to services like ReachOut.com.
Being aware and able to identify mental health struggle is an important first step. Plus, the great news is there are already some practical ways to get proactive about looking out for the wellbeing of our hardworking criminal defence lawyers in Australia.