Attorneys and other professionals have different ways of coping with stress. One approach is to release all those internal tensions by erupting in a temper tantrum, ranting and raving until you feel better. While this may be effective in blowing off steam, it can be very destructive to your personal and professional relationships. No one wants to work for an attorney with an explosive temper who lashes out at people without warning.
Other attorneys cope with stress by holding everything inside. They try to present an image of strength to their colleagues, clients, friends and families, while burying their feelings of fear, anxiety or depression. While good for a professional career, this approach raises the risk of a of a mental health crisis, alcoholism, substance abuse and even suicide.
Professionals who are used to using their brains to solve clients’ problems also run the risk of detaching themselves from their emotions. When faced with a stressful situation, such as courtroom confrontation, they try to reason their way through the problem. However, the brain and body are meant to work together, not be split apart.
Detaching from one’s emotions to avoid painful feelings makes it more difficult to empathize with clients, or prepare a convincing argument for a jury. It also takes away from the pleasures in life. So, heed the warning in the classic Pink Floyd song, and don’t become “Comfortably Numb.”
South Florida Legal Guide applauds The Florida Bar for taking action to bring substance abuse and mental illness out of the shadows and into the light. You can read about this important ongoing initiative in this issue.
We believe it’s time to address the stigma often attached to mental illness and make it easier for legal professionals to get help. After all, chronic depression, panic attacks, and anxiety are well-recognized clinical conditions – not personal shortcomings.
In many cases, counseling, medication or behavior therapy can be very effective in treating mental health problems. An attorney with the courage to seek out appropriate care should be applauded. It can be the next step toward a deeper understanding of oneself, and a better relationships with clients, as well as family and friends.
June 4, 2018