Warning signs of mental Illness

Warning signs of mental Illness

Warning signs of mental Illness
Warning signs of mental Illness

Warning signs of mental Illness

A study of mental-health issues among U.S. lawyers released last year found that 20.6% of those surveyed were heavy drinkers and 28% experienced symptoms of depression, compared with 8% or less for the general population for both issues

Research shows that lawyers face higher rates of substance abuse, depression, and suicide than the general population. According to the most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. legal industry had the 11th highest suicide rate in 2012 among occupations at 18.8 per 100,000, compared with 16.1 per 100,000 nationwide.

A study of mental-health issues among U.S. lawyers released last year by Patrick Krill, a former practicing attorney who moved into addiction counseling seven years ago, and other researchers found that 20.6% of those surveyed were heavy drinkers and 28% experienced symptoms of depression, compared with 8% or less for the general population for both issues, according to other studies.

The adversarial nature of law practice, together with work and home stressors and the demands of clients contribute to these problems. Advances in technology make it possible to communicate with anyone, anywhere, at any time, making it more difficult to escape from the stresses and challenges of practice.

In “Law Firms Tackle a Taboo,” an article in the May 22, 2017 edition of The Wall Street Journal, Sara Randazzo reported that “some U.S. law firms are tackling mental-health issues head-on. They are offering on-site psychologists, training staff to spot problems, and incorporating mental-health support alongside other wellness initiatives.”

The terminologies “mental health” and “mental illness” used interchangeably are assumed to mean the same thing. However, they do not. Every person has mental health, just as everyone has physical health. Mental health relates to a level of psychological well-being, or an absence of a mental disorder. Mental health takes account of the emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects thought, feelings, and action. It also helps determine how to handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. Mental health is important throughout all stages of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood. Still, not all people will experience a mental illness, but everyone will struggle or have a challenge with their mental well-being. Mental illness is associated with different kinds of mental experiences; similarly, to different physical and health problems and challenges with the physical well-being from time to time. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “There is no health without mental health.”

Throughout the course of life, various factors can contribute to mental health problems, including biological factors, such as genes or brain chemistry and life experiences, such as trauma or abuse, and a family history of mental health and will affect thinking, mood and behavior. One in five adults and one in four children experiences a mental health condition each year. One in 17 lives with a serious and persistent mental illness, such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.

Mental illness also indirectly affects family members, friends and communities. Mental illnesses present with different symptoms and affect lives in different ways. What these conditions have in common is that they negatively affect a person’s emotions, thoughts and behaviors. The symptoms of mental illness influence how people see the world around them and how they interact in that world.

These numbers are staggering. In the course of our practices, it is quite likely that we will encounter employees, junior lawyers, partners, support staff, clients, judges, and fellow lawyers who are struggling with mental health issues.

Early warning signs of problems that can influence feelings or behaviors are:

  • Eating or sleeping too much or too little
  • Pulling away from people and usual activities
  • Feeling numb or like nothing matters
  • Having unexplained aches and pains
  • Feeling helpless or hopeless
  • Smoking, drinking, or using drugs more than usual
  • Feeling unusually confused, forgetful, on edge, angry, upset, worried or scared
  • Yelling or fighting with family and friends
  • Experiencing severe mood swings that cause problems in relationships
  • Having persistent thoughts and memories that you can’t get out of your head
  • Hearing voices or believing things that are not true
  • Thoughts of harming yourself or others
  • Inability to perform daily tasks like taking care of yourself or performing daily living skills

Normally, there are times in our life when we change our thinking and worldview. However, the difference with mental illness is the frequency of the condition, the duration of the illness, and the associated symptoms, as well as the impact of mental illness on lives. Although there is no found cure for mental illness, recovery is possible.

Although every diagnosis presents with its own symptoms, there are some commons signs of mental illness in adults and adolescents. NAMI Broward County, an affiliate of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization, and NAMI chapters across the United States, have various programs and support outlets for those who need to understand mental illness and how to support those who are affected, as well as resources directing support for those living with a mental illness.

Below are some resources to help you and others:

Florida Lawyers Assistance (FLA)


Fla Toll-Free Hotline

(800) 282-8981 (800) 282-8981 (National)

FLA Judges’ Hotline

(888) 972-4040 (National)

Pompano Beach Office

(954) 568-9040

The Florida Lawyers Helpline is a great resource you can use to share with your network. The Helpline is a free and completely confidential service that connects members with professional counselors who can help them overcome life’s challenges, balance priorities and better handle both personal and professional pressures. There’s no cost for calls to the Helpline and you may be referred for up to five (5) free counseling sessions per year. Our five (5) free therapy sessions just reset in January, so please explore this if you find it helpful. You can call 1-833-351-9355 or visit www.floridabar.org/helpline/ for more information.

If in crisis, please call or text the National Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988 (24/7). If calling 911: Ask for a Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) Officer.

Florida Suicide Prevention Coalition (FSPC)

http://www.floridasuicideprevention.org/  (800) 273-8255 (TALK).

National Alliance on Mental Illness-(NAMI Broward chapter)


(954) 316-9907

Helpline: (800) 316-9907

Suicide Prevention Lifeline


National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

(800) 273-8255

Veterans Crisis Line

(800) 273-8255

Disaster Distress Helpline


State Employee? Check out your benefits for information on the Employee Assistance Program (EAP).

Should you encounter a friend, client, colleague or coworker whose ability to function is impaired by mental illness, please consider referring them to these resources for help. Mental health problems are common. Recovery is possible. There is hope.

For more information, please contact the NAMI chapter near you.

Bruce Blitman

Bruce Blitman

Bruce A. Blitman is certified by the Florida Supreme Court as a county, circuit, and family mediator and as a federal mediator in both the United States District Courts and for the Southern and Middle Districts in Florida. Since 1989, Blitman has mediated more than 3,000 cases. He is also an arbitrator, author, and lecturer and is actively involved in every aspect of Dispute Resolution Practice.

Dr. Sandra Cumper Boynton

Dr. Sandra Cumper Boynton

Dr. Sandra Cumper Boynton, MSc, is an established authority with more than 20 years of experience in mental health. She has worked with individuals diagnosed with mental/health and/or substance abuse, and individuals facing homelessness. Dr. Cumper Boynton holds a Master of Science degree in mental health counseling from Palm Beach Atlantic University and received her doctorate in behavioral  health from Arizona State University.

This column originally appeared in the April 2024 edition of the the Broward County Bar Association Barrister.


Originally published at https://www.floridabar.org/the-florida-bar-news/warning-signs-of-mental-illness/

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