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Lawyers have worst mental health of all professionals

Written by: Richard Simmons
Published on: 10 Mar 2016

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“Lawyers suffer from significantly lower levels of psychological and psychosomatic health wellbeing than other professionals,” a new study in Australia has found.

The research, by Dr Rebecca Michalak of the University of Queensland, also found that substance use and abuse among private practice lawyers is double that of other professionals.

It recommended that firms should commit to improving lawyer mental health as key strategic imperative and institute mental health awareness and management training.

Michalak looked at bullying within law firms, finding that at least one in every 20 respondents were victims of this. She found that bullying by destabilisation – such as shifting goalposts without telling the target and removing areas of responsibility without consultation – was the most common form of bullying behaviour. Bullying by isolation and overwork was next most common.

Some 58.4 per cent of lawyers who had suffered reported that their mistreatment experiences involved more than one perpetrator – that is, group bullying. By contrast, 65.4 per cent of non-lawyer professionals said their bullying experience was confined to one person.

When asked about the “person responsible for most of the behaviour”, the majority of lawyers (63.3 percent) reported that the main perpetrator was male, with 74.7 per cent saying the bully was older than them.

Again in contrast only 59.6 per cent of non-lawyer professionals said their bully was male and only 45.6 per cent said they were bullied by someone older.

About half all respondents were exposed to at least some form of sexual harassment: either gender harassment, unwanted sexual attention or sexual coercion.