The Bar Speaks: Lawyer well-being
Vol. 78, No. 4 / July - August 2022
Because of the passion of John Gunn, Athena Dickson, Whittney Dunn, Erica Mynarich, and many other leaders of The Missouri Bar, the issue of lawyer well-being has been placed in the spotlight over the past couple of years, including in recent issues of the Journal of The Missouri Bar. Indeed, during his term as president, Gunn and the Hon. George W. Draper III convened a roundtable meeting with stakeholders from around the state to discuss lawyer well- being.
Following that roundtable, The Missouri Bar created the Lawyers Living Well Special Committee. That committee is focused on addressing various issues of mental health that Missouri lawyers are faced with. The special committee has three main goals: (1) identify effective methods to educate members and those with whom they interact with about well- being; (2) identify attitudes, perceptions, and other factors that produce stigma or other barriers to well-being for members, and recommend measures to reduce that stigma; and (3) identify policy-based strategies to improve and promote the well-being of members of The Missouri Bar.
I am humbled and honored to be a member of the special committee and to have participated in the well-being roundtable. Although mental health and well-being have always been matters that I’ve cared about, my participation on the special committee has given me a newfound appreciation of these issues. Over the past two years (which also happens to have coincided with a global pandemic), I have learned a lot about mental health and have reassessed the status of my own well-being.
This fall, I hope to pass on some of the things I’ve learned to the next generation of Missouri lawyers. Spearheaded by Erin McClernon and Prof. Chuck Henson, I and several other members of the special committee will teach a course at the University of Missouri School of Law that focuses on life skills for thriving lawyers.
The start of the fall semester just happens to overlap with Suicide Prevention Awareness Month in September. When I was a toddler, my uncle died by suicide. This experience is not unique to me as practically everyone I know has lost someone to suicide. For me, I was too young when my uncle died to understand what happened. My memories of him are mainly based on stories from family. From what I’ve been told, he had a gregarious personality and a dapper sense of style. Part of me has always wondered if things could have turned out differently. My uncle was a veteran and served in the military during a very different era than we’re in today.
So, as we approach the beginning of Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, I encourage all of us to take stock of our mental health and to continue to do what we can to support our fellow Missouri lawyers. One step we can take is to participate in QPR training. QPR stands for Question, Persuade, and Refer. QPR training teaches simple, practical, and proven steps anyone can take to respond to someone in crisis, and it can save lives. QPR is the most widely taught suicide prevention gatekeeper training in the world.
As I’ve heard multiple judges and attorneys say (and I can personally attest), being a lawyer is hard. It’s also stressful. To reduce the stress and difficulties that sometime come with the profession, I try to decompress by spending time with family and friends, traveling, and woodworking. I’m hopeful that all of us can find healthy ways to decompress and reduce stress as members of this demanding profession that we chose.
Also, please remember that the Missouri Lawyers’ Assistance Program (MOLAP) has services, free of charge, available to help members of The Missouri Bar, immediate family members who reside with them, and law students. And the Lawyers Living Well Special Committee will continue to work diligently to develop programs and resources for Missouri lawyers that facilitate our wellness and that of those who surround us.
Editor’s Note: If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health, help is available. In an emergency, dial 988 to speak with a professional on the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Lawyers and law students also have free, confidential counseling through MOLAP. Learn more at MoBar.org/MOLAP.