President’s Page by Christy Crow, 144th President of Alabama State Bar
This is a one-of-a-kind issue for The Alabama Lawyer. While I am not an authority on the Lawyer and what has been published in the past, I understand this is the first issue that is focused on what some might consider a non-substantive law issue. I commend Editor Greg Ward and everyone who contributed to this issue for taking the brave step forward into a hard conversation that has been stigmatized for way too long.
After I became the president-elect designate, I had many people ask what I wanted to accomplish during my year as president. I’ve always loved hearing the stories of lawyers and finding out what makes people tick. So I knew I wanted to tell the stories of lawyers and encourage the Alabama State Bar to tell the stories of its members. I wanted to do more than that, though. I wanted to create a path to make it easier for the lawyers in our state to thrive. A few weeks after I became president-elect, a lawyer in my small circuit who graduated from law school with me committed suicide, and another lawyer from our circuit had a brother who committed suicide. This was not long after an investigator in our local district attorney’s office (whose son is also an attorney) committed suicide. The sadness and despair in our community was palpable. These experiences so close to home solidified my desire to ease the path of my fellow lawyers. I know and love people who are in recovery. I know and love people who suffer from depression. I know and love people who live unhealthy lives, are chronically over-stressed, drink too much, eat too much, and generally are not well. I would guess we all have known and loved people who have suffered similarly. I know I have suffered from those same things from time to time. The stress of practicing law, keeping a marriage together (and, hopefully, happy), raising a family, giving back to a community, and trying to develop clients affects everyone, including me, and can be overwhelming at times. Sometimes, I handle that stress in a healthy way, and sometimes handle it in a less healthy way. While I am blessed that I do not suffer from chronic depression or addiction, I have struggled periodically during my career and have witnessed my friends and colleagues struggle as well.
Being aware generally of the statistics related to depression and anxiety for lawyers, I began my focus on wellness with reading the ABA Report on Lawyer Wellness. If you have not read it, I recommend you do here. It offers statistics of where we are and practical recommendations for positive change that we can all make in our lives and the lives and culture of our firms. In light of this, I knew my presidency would be a success if I could reduce the stigma associated with seeking mental health treatment and increase awareness of wellness which would, I hope, make a difference in at least one person’s life. This goal is coming to fruition now that Greg Ward and The Alabama Lawyer editorial board dedicated an issue of our state’s legal magazine to these goals. In addition, Communications Director Melissa Warnke and the Quality of Life, Health and Wellness Task Force, led by Susan Han, Emily Hornsby, and Brannon Buck, are sharing “Wellness Wednesday” tips on the bar’s social media, and they have developed a Wellness CLE to be shared around the state.
The Alabama State Bar is concerned about the health and wellness of our members. The Board of Bar Commissioners recently approved a new member benefit through Wellbeing Coaches that offers member discounts on coaching to improve your health, wellness, behavior, career, finances, and life. There is often stigma attached to getting help. Wellbeing Coaches brings much-needed assistance to your home or office, avoiding any stigma or time constraints associated with seeking help. In addition, george Parker, Jimbo Terrell, Davis Smith, Manish Patel, and Brian Murphy are exploring other health and wellness-related member benefits, including insurance benefits. Information about Wellbeing coaches should be coming soon to the member benefits page of our website. Of course, Robert Thornhill and the amazing volunteers at the Alabama Lawyer Assistance Program offer help and are always available for those in need.
As the holidays approach, there is often more stress and pressure related to everyday life. Remember a few important things: Don’t give up. You matter. Get help if you need it. Find your peaceful place. Mine is my front porch which has amazing sunsets and is often filled with my favorite people on earth. Once you identify your peaceful place, go there on those stressful days, and remember that no matter what has happened in your life that day, tomorrow is another day that contains many mysteries of life, opportunities to learn new things, and promises of different experiences. The mysteries, opportunities, and experiences of life offer strength for today and hope for tomorrow.