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Survey seeks lawyers’ views on substance abuse, mental health issues

Virginia lawyers are being asked to share their own experience and views regarding addiction and mental health issues this month with a survey for the state’s Lawyers Helping Lawyers program.

The link for the online survey is expected to be emailed to lawyers beginning Monday, April 7, said James Leffler, executive director of LHL. The survey will be open through April 30.

The survey will take 20-25 minutes to complete, he said.

“It’s a little longer than most surveys, but we’ll get a lot more data,” Leffler said.

A similar online survey in 2008 showed Virginia lawyers reported being affected by substance abuse at a lower rate than national figures.

On a national basis, 18-20 percent of lawyers acknowledge being troubled by substance abuse in their personal or professional lives, Leffler said. The figure was 13 percent for Virginia lawyers in 2008, he said.

Mental health issues were more common. Leffler said 24 percent of lawyers in 2008 reported being affected by mental health issues in their personal or professional lives, with 14 percent having been professionally diagnosed at some point.

Depression and anxiety were the most common afflictions.

The 2008 survey was emailed to 14,240 lawyers. Around 2,000 responded, a response rate of about 14 percent, Leffler said.

An updated survey will “help us decide where to spend our resources,” he said.

“It behooves the whole profession to take care of people who are having these issues,” Leffler said.

The coming edition of the Virginia State Bar publication “Virginia Lawyer” will focus on LHL and mental health and wellness issues, Leffler said.

The Lawyers Helping Lawyers program was organized in 1985 to provide confidential, non-disciplinary assistance to members of the Virginia legal profession who experience professional impairment as a result of substance abuse. It expanded its mission to include mental health impairment in 2003.

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