Well-Being Week In Law 2021

This week is National Well-Being Week in Law. First established in 2020, Well-Being Week in Law is coordinated by the Institute for Well-Being in Law (IWIL) and is sponsored by the ABA Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs. The week serves as time for each of us to lead and participate in activities that promote health and happiness across the legal profession. The aim of Well-Being Week in Law is to raise awareness about mental health and encourage action and innovation across the profession to improve well-being. I encourage everyone to participate—judges, lawyers, law students, legal administrators, and support staff.

Well-being is not defined by the absence of illness, as pointed out by IWIL. Instead, well-being is a continuous process towards thriving across one’s life dimensions. This includes our physical, spiritual, occupational, intellectual, social, and emotional well-being. There truly is something for everyone of us when it comes to well-being in the legal profession and we are encouraging all to participate in Well-Being Week in Law. Each day there will be a new focus and new activities to participate in.

There are many ways that organizations, firms, and individuals can participate. Visit the IWIL website for resources and activity ideas. Visit the Kansas Task Force on Lawyer Well-Being website daily for videos and actives. Also, follow the Kansas Lawyers Assistance Program on Twitter and Facebook for ways to participate through social media each day.

Coping with Election Stress

According the American Psychological Association (APA), over 68% of Americans report the election is a significant source of stress in their life. While you will not find election stress disorder in the DSM 5 (the standard classification of mental health disorders used by mental health professionals in the United States), it is something many mental health professionals are recognizing as a real concept.

According to the Mayo Clinic, election stress disorder is an experience of overwhelming anxiety that can manifest itself in a number of ways. It can affect people physically, mentally and socially. So, no matter what side of the political aisle you find yourself, taking care of your well-being on Election Day — and in the days after — is important. Especially, if you find yourself struggling with election stress and searching for ways to cope.

The APA recently offered the following list to help individuals manage stress related to the election. We have also included other activities that might help you cope.

  • Avoid Dwelling on things you can’t control and focus on what you can. Uncertainty can be stressful and can lead to dwelling on thoughts of the “worst-case” scenario. Instead of focusing on the uncertainty, attempt to recognize what you can control in the situation. A good exercise is writing down everything you are worried about on a piece of paper. Once you have done that, circle only the things you can control. Now, focus your energy on only those things in your control and let go of everything else. If it is helpful, create a new list with only the items left to focus on.
  • Engage in meaningful activities. Find an activity that you enjoy and spend time doing it. Also, give yourself permission to take a break from the news. Try limiting your news exposure to only to a specific amount of time on election day and in the days that follow.
  • Stay connected. Having a friend or family member you can talk with for support can be helpful. Studies show having a strong support system can be beneficial to both your mental and your physical health. If you need to speak with a mental health professional, consider calling KALAP to gain access to short term counseling services.
  • Stay active. Get moving to release the energy you feel from stress. If the weather is nice, try going outside for a walk. Simple things like cleaning and organizing can also serve as a mindfulness exercise. Regaining control over your immediate environment through decluttering your space can also aid in reducing stress.

Another important aspect to recognize is that we might not learn who won the election on Election Day. This where recognizing the things we can control and accepting the things we cannot can be helpful in reducing the stress and anxiety you feel. So, in the days following the election, consider making a plan for your self-care. Lastly, if you find yourself experiencing increased levels of stress and anxiety and are in need of assistance, please reach out to KALAP. Contact us by phone at 785-368-8275 or by email.

Real Talk with KALAP (September Episode) – Suicide Prevention

In honor of National Suicide Prevention Month, KALAP Executive Director, Danielle Hall, recently sat down with Monice Kurz, Director of the Kansas Suicide Prevention Resource Center, to discuss suicide prevention.

Resources discussed in this video include:

Suicide Awareness Month 2020

To raise awareness, the month of September is recognized as National Suicide Awareness Month. It is a time to share resources and stories in an effort to shed light on this highly stigmatized topic. Its mission is to bring awareness to suicide and to prevent it.

Suicide is an important subject matter we should be discussing more within the legal profession. According to the Center for Disease Control, lawyers rank fourth in the rate of suicide in terms of professions and have six times the suicide rate as the general population. In 2016, the American Bar Association Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs and the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation Study revealed 11% of lawyers reporting having suicidal thoughts at some point during their legal career. According to the Survey on Law Student Well-Being conducted that same year, 6% of law students reported having serious suicidal thoughts in the past year.

According to the American Association of Suicidology, the warning signs of acute suicide risk include:

  • Threatening to hurt or kill him or herself, or talking of wanting to hurt or kill him/herself; and or,
  • Looking for ways to kill him/herself by seeking access to firearms, available pills, or other means; and/or,
  • Talking or writing about death, dying or suicide, when these actions are out of the ordinary.

It is important to note these warning signs are not always communicated directly or outwardly.

Additional warning signs include:

  • Increased substance (alcohol or drug) use
  • No reason for living; no sense of purpose in life
  • Anxiety, agitation, unable to sleep or sleeping all of the time
  • Feeling trapped – like there’s no way out
  • Hopelessness
  • Withdrawal from friends, family and society
  • Rage, uncontrolled anger, seeking revenge
  • Acting reckless or engaging in risky activities, seemingly without thinking
  • Dramatic mood changes
  • Giving away prized possessions or seeking long-term care for pets

If you know someone who may be having thoughts of suicide, please visit bethe1to.com for more information on helping someone in crisis. If you have had thoughts of suicide, please seek help by calling KALAP for immediate assistance or call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) to speak with the National Suicide Prevention Hotline.

Blank sheet of paper and a pencil on a desk

International Bar Association Survey on Lawyer Well-Being

The International Bar Association (IBA) has embarked on a global project aimed at addressing the mental wellbeing of legal professionals as COVID-19 exacerbates tensions in professional and personal lives. The key initial phase of the project consists of two global surveys – one for individual lawyers, the other for law firms and other legal institutions, including bar associations, law societies and in-house legal departments. Available in both English and Spanish, the surveys are anonymous and take approximately ten minutes to complete.

The IBA Individual Lawyer Wellbeing Survey can be accessed here.
The IBA Institutional Wellbeing Survey is available here.

The data gathered from the completed surveys will provide insight into:

  • the pressing mental health concerns of legal professionals;
  • the support they can expect to receive from their workplaces;
  • how the wellbeing of lawyers and other stakeholders in the legal profession are affected by their work and working environments;
  • identifying problems that each might have faced in getting the help they needed; and
  • what law firms, bars and law societies should be doing to support those in distress.

Data gathered from the surveys will be discussed in detail by the IBA’s Wellbeing Taskforce in a showcase session at the IBA 2020 – Virtually Together Conference in November.