[Ed. Note: This episode discusses sensitive issues including depression and suicide. -GL]

Mental health and wellbeing issues have long posed challenges in the legal profession.

However, in this thoughtful episode of The Geek in Review podcast, hosts Marlene Gebauer and Greg Lambert have an enlightening discussion with three experts on concrete ways to foster greater wellness.

Defining wellbeing holistically, Bree Buchanan, co-founder of the Well-Being in Law Movement, explains it encompasses mental, emotional, occupational, spiritual, and physical dimensions. She argues the profession needs “systemic, structural change” through total leadership buy-in, not just HR-led programs. As Buchanan emphasizes, “What I see frequently, then you’ll have a practice group or a team, and the leader of that is not bought into this at all.”

Reviewing startling statistics from a new Thomson Reuters survey, Nita Cumello reveals over 50% of legal professionals have taken a mental health day this past quarter. She worries this implies “even more days spent, where they’re operating in a negative or stressed or in best case, state of neutral headspace.” Cumello asserts, “if more than half of the people are struggling with mental health difficulties enough that it forces them to take time away from work, it means that there are even more days spent, where they’re operating in a negative or stressed or in best case, state of neutral headspace.”

Saskia Mehlhorn courageously shares her family’s painful experience losing her youngest son to suicide and the importance of removing stigma through authenticity. As she recounts her eldest son telling her, “You can’t make the last thing that people will know about [him] something that isn’t him.” Mehlhorn stresses, “if someone lives authentically, we have to pick them up at the point where we, as a family, as a community, as a society fail and don’t allow them to live authentically any longer.”

Offering insights on providing genuine support, the guests emphasize taking helpful actions, active listening without platitudes, and cueing off what colleagues need. Buchanan advises firms should intervene to assist struggling employees rather than ignore issues or terminate them. She observes, “there’s much more willingness to sit down and give the person a chance and work with them.”

Cumello concludes wellbeing can’t be crowded out by urgent business demands, stating “we have to keep the wellbeing movement as and think about it in that reframe sense of how foundational it is to perform optimally.” She advocates assessing workforce wellbeing, training at all levels, and equipping leaders to role model healthy behaviors to drive lasting cultural change.

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The Unmind report on The State of WellBeing in Law

Thomson Reuters Future of Professionals Report

DIal 988 – Suicide and Crisis Lifeline

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Music: ⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠Jerry David DeCicca⁠⁠⁠⁠

TranscriptContinue Reading Mehlhorn, Buchanan, and Cumello on Breaking the Stigma: Fostering Wellbeing in the Legal Profession (TGIR Ep. 223)