Lawyers, like many other professionals who serve the public good, can be subjected to hazards that take a toll on health and well-being. But, unlike other professions in which these hazards are obvious, the practice of law exacts its toll in ways that are hard to detect, and, for some, hard to accept. The data, however, is convincing, as the articles in this issue make clear. Most attorneys have experienced the perils of practicing law first-hand, whether it be their own mental-health concerns or those of colleagues and peers. (1)
While it has long been known that incidents of anxiety and depression run high among members of the legal profession, the bar, bench, and legal academy are mobilizing to tend to these mental-health concerns. The Florida Bar has been at the forefront of this endeavor, though executing on this challenge has never been easy. The Florida Bar's Special Committee on Mental Health and Wellness of Florida Lawyers is working to tender a comprehensive, yet accessible series of informational and practical tools to meet this need. The challenge is to identify a set of tools that are scientifically validated, effective, and compatible with the lifestyle of lawyers, judges, and law students. Once identified, these tools can be made available to lawyers so that they may utilize the ones of greatest value to them.
Mindfulness has emerged as one such resource. Mindfulness practices teach us ways of steadying our focus and being less tossed around while riding life's inevitable roller coaster of emotion. Unlike exercises that bring about momentary relief from stressful situations, mindfulness practice involves learning to cope more effectively and with greater resilience amid life's rocky moments. Moreover, science findings suggest that mindfulness practice can play a meaningful role in helping with mental illness. For example, a recent meta-analysis of 47 clinical trials that involved mindfulness reported moderate evidence for improvements in anxiety, depression, and pain, noting that "effects are comparable with what would be expected from the use of an antidepressant in a primary-care population but without the associated toxicities." (2)
Three mindfulness programs that have been found helpful to individuals grappling with mental-health issues are discussed below. These programs are worthy of special attention owing to the degree to which they have been researched and the number of people who have been helped.
All are eight-week...