Taking Mental Health Seriously: A Review of the American National Judicial Stress and Resiliency Survey

It was recently reported in the Law Times that the isolation experienced during the pandemic is worsening lawyers’ mental health. Similarly, the American Bar Association released a study (conducted pre-pandemic) showing that judges are experiencing severe stress.

The National Judicial Stress and Resiliency Survey showed that:

  • almost 4 out of 10 judges reported stress from fatigue and low energy.
  • 1 in 5 judges met at least 1 criteria for depressive disorder (such as not having initiative, preoccupation with negative thoughts, work is no longer meaningful, can’t wait for the day’s work to end and depressed mood).

The National Task Force Report made recommendations for facilitating better health. Some of these recommendations include:

  1. Communicate that judicial well-being is a priority. Judges should lead by example when it comes to taking their health seriously. “By prioritizing self-care, justices set an example and send a message that well-being is a priority.”
  2. Convene a task force on well-being in the legal profession. The Chief Justice is encouraged to review priorities and develop plans to improve well-being of its stakeholder groups.
  3. Ensure that the judiciary has access to resources and programming, like Lawyer Assistance Programs. In Ontario, the Member Assistance Program is available for lawyers and paralegals.
  4. Study the way caseloads are divided. Heavy dockets were cited as a primary source of stress. 

This article is dedicated to Tommy Raskin. As Aaron Dantowitz so eloquently stated via Twitter that he is “a reminder that even those who are successful by many measures, and surrounded by love, are not immune”.

(This article was originally published on Slaw.ca. heatherdouglaslaw.com)

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