PITTSBURGH – Multiple surveys of the legal profession over the past several years confirm what many in the industry already know: a significant number of legal professionals are affected by mental health and substance use issues, including depression, anxiety, problem drinking and drug use. A landmark study of lawyers by the American Bar Association and Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation found that 28% of respondents experienced depression; 19% had symptoms of anxiety and 21% were problem drinkers. An American Lawyer survey of more than 3,800 legal professionals, published just last month, reported that 31.2% of the respondents said they feel depressed, 64% feel they have anxiety, 10.1% feel they have an alcohol problem and 2.8% feel they have a drug problem.

As Reed Smith observes Mental Wellness Month in March, the firm’s Wellness Works initiative, in partnership with its Mental Health Task Force, has launched a #stopthestigma awareness campaign. Stigma remains among the most formidable barriers preventing legal professionals from seeking help for mental health and substance use issues. A core aim of this campaign is to empower all firm personnel to achieve greater personal wellness.

“As an early signatory to the ABA Pledge for Change, Reed Smith is committed to eliminating the stigma associated with mental health and substance related conditions so that everyone – including our lawyers and professional staff – is comfortable seeking help and using the resources they need,” said Casey Ryan, Reed Smith’s Global Head of Legal Personnel. “Eliminating stigma can encourage people to seek the help they need for what we know are treatable conditions – and can result in significant improvements in individuals’ and families’ lives. This is an essential outcome our firm is committed to achieving.”

Events and activities scheduled at Reed Smith during the #stopthestigma campaign include:

  • An educational program on March 4 led by Mettie Spiess, a certified psychological health and safety advisor and founder of A World Without Suicide;
  • A video series featuring lawyers and professional staff at the firm and mental health allies sharing their stories;
  • A U.S.-wide mental health and safety leadership training session for individuals at the firm who manage people;
  • “Wear Green Day” on March 19 to raise awareness of the #stopthestigma campaign;
  • An educational program on March 26 led by Kelly Rentzel, General Counsel for Texas Capital Bank, who will share her compelling story of living with bipolar disorder.

Reed Smith’s comprehensive Wellness Works initiative was launched in January 2018 as a means of helping the firm’s workforce manage stress, achieve work-life balance, develop healthy habits, and attain positive mindfulness. Since its launch, Wellness Works has focused regularly on mental health and substance use issues as part of its holistic approach that has included a nationally acclaimed speaker series on stress management and substance use; a Month of Good Deeds; the “Get Moving Challenge”; and a popular Arts for Wellness component. Earlier this year, Reed Smith announced the launch of a Mental Health Task Force to advise the firm on policies and practices, educational programming, services, resources, and awareness raising around issues of mental well-being.