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Jan
23
2008

Substance Abuse and Depression in Women Lawyers

Categories: Addiction, News, Substance Abuse, Women's Issues, Workplace

A recent newsletter sent out by the MSBA Women’s Law Section included some astounding statistics regarding the incidence of depression and addiction in lawyers. The stats were part of an article about a program the group held last fall that explored the “medical and ethical issues facing professional women as a result of depression and addiction.”

Here are some of the stats:

  • Substance abuse is twice as likely among attorneys as compared to the general population
  • Women generally suffer Major Depressive Episodes at more than twice the rate of men. Those proportions reflect the annual incidence of depression in legal professionals: Women (8.2%), Men (4.6%)
  • Substance abuse or mental illness account for up to 70% of attorney discipline cases
  • A North Carolina study surveyed 2,570 lawyers and found 25% had symptoms consistent with depression
  • Most attorneys know of at least one attorney who has committed suicide

The article also included some symptoms of substance abuse and depression that might be observed in impaired attorneys. According to Dr. Susan Blank, MD, a presenter at the MSBA Women’s Law Section’s program, these symptoms might include:

  • Procrastination, “file stagnation” or lowered productivity
  • Missed deadlines, excuse-making and/or lying to clients
  • Avoiding the mail or the telephone, and other changes in professional conduct.

The article ends with a call for lawyers to support their peers in seeking treatment and in their recovery. This support is especially important for female lawyers, as the stigma associated with a mentally ill or addicted woman acts as a barrier to treatment. The good news is that the recovery rate is much higher among professionals (90%) than in the general population (40%-60%).

Maine Resources for Professionals

Maine Assistance Program (MAP) for Lawyers and Judges (800.530.4627), addresses the issue of lawyer or judge impairment from the effects of chemical dependency or mental conditions

Crossroads for Women, a substance abuse treatment facility for women and their families

Substance Abuse & Mental Health Providers, a directory of providers in Maine

211 Maine, health and human service information and resources in Maine

AA Maine, list of AA meetings in Maine

NA Maine, list of NA meetings in Maine

Al-Anon, list of Al-Anon meetings in Maine

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– Back Cove Women’s Residential Program Client

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