We hear it all the time: when compared with international workforce statistics, Americans overwork themselves. And in few industries job-related stress more significantly impactful than in law, where high stakes, long hours, and all but unattainable performance expectations converge for most lawyers in San Antonio and the rest of Texas to result in 90+ hour work weeks. No one thinks that’s healthy, so we shouldn’t be surprised when attorneys represent a profession that has high rates of individuals struggling with substance abuse and mental health issues. But now the State Bar of Texas is trying to help.
The initiative was begun by one of the lawyers in San Antonio who took note of the problems in the lives of his colleagues—lawyers, law students and judges alike. Allan K. DuBois is an attorney in San Antonio who himself is a recovering alcoholic, and who sees the desperate need to promote health and wellness in the legal profession as one of his top priorities. Collaborating with the State Bar of Texas and the Texas Lawyers’ Assistance Program (TLAP) to produce a video with personal stories of recovery from substance abuse and mental health issues that impair job performances of attorneys in Texas, DuBois is hopeful he can have a positive impact.
For those lawyers in San Antonio and elsewhere in Texas who know they’re struggling with common issues like anxiety and depression (symptoms include insomnia, lack of motivation, withdrawal and isolation from friend groups, irritable bowels, high blood pressure, and more) TLAP offers help. For those who aren’t quite ready to admit they have a problem (e.g. “It’s only cocktails before dinner, wine with dinner, and whisky afterward. Until bedtime. Every night. No big deal, everyone does it.) TLAP will be there when they’re ready to address how they want to change. DuBois is encouraging with his assertions: “I know there’s recovery. I know there’s help. I know there’s hope.”
The TLAP video available for lawyers in San Antonio as well as law students and legal professionals around the state is nearly 20 minutes long and includes interviews with Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Nathan L. Hecht and former Texas Bar College chair Veronica Jacobs, who not only speak to the importance of destigmatizing some of these issues so that professionals are able to overcome the barriers to asking for support, but emphasize that for those who can’t afford treatment they need, scholarships and assistance programs especially for attorneys in Texas are available.
Especially because “some studies have found that attorneys are more likely than the general population to suffer from substance abuse and certain mental health issues, including depression,” TLAP and DuBois are hopeful that this video geared toward outreach in the field will have a positive impact. TLAP has been around since 1989 as “a confidential place for attorneys to seek help,” and with all the help that attorneys in Texas give the public with their long hours of service and performance in the high-stakes arena of the courtroom, we’re hopeful they can ask for support when they need it if they know it’s available.