Spring 2023 Bar Journal
It’s April 21, 2023, and I am sitting in my kitchen in Wayne, Maine, contemplating the craziness of these past few years. I had an in-person MAP meeting this week and felt so happy to be in a room with others. I realized I had taken the simple pleasure of sitting with other people and talking for granted. So many of us felt a real sense of loss and loneliness during the height of the pandemic, when our worlds became smaller, and we could not visit loved ones or meet a friend for coffee.
Experts say that there was “An Epidemic of Loneliness” in the United States even before the pandemic. Loneliness is defined by a gap in the level of connectedness you want and what you have. Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy, in a talk given at the Yale School of Management, says a survey done from 2018-2020 found that 60% of us described feeling lonely and that these numbers reach 75% among younger Americans. This survey was done before COVID-19’s stay-at-home orders, shifting to at-home work and not seeing our family and friends for fear of spreading the virus. It does not take a study to conclude that COVID-19 resulted in a significant change in our connection with others for many of us.
General Murthy warns that loneliness has some real effects on physical and emotional health. Loneliness can increase rates of heart disease, depression, and anxiety and can lead to an increased risk of dementia and early death.
Attorneys excel in so many areas of life. Unfortunately, we also outpace other professions in our rates of anxiety, depression, suicidal ideation, and substance use disorder. It may come as no surprise that the legal profession is also the loneliest.
I do not have any scientific data regarding loneliness and Maine’s legal profession. However, I have anecdotal knowledge from many legal professionals in our state, and many of us are experiencing loneliness.
What can we do? How can we address the issue of loneliness in our own in our offices, firms, courthouses, and among our friends and colleagues?
The answer can be as simple as starting a conversation with a colleague, offering praise for a job well done, or inviting a co-worker for coffee. Reaching out to one another and connecting can not only make ourselves and others feel better, but it can also decrease feelings of loneliness and the possible mental and physical ailments that result from not feeling connected.
The Maine Assistance Program for Lawyers and Judges (MAP) not only assists the legal community with mental health and substance use issues but also serves as a proactive program to encourage attorney well-being. One of the most successful MAP programs is our free and confidential MAP volunteer peer to peer support. All MAP volunteers are attorneys in Maine. Please reach out if you think connecting with a MAP volunteer would help you or another attorney.
Let’s take care of each other.
Kristin Murray-James, Esq.
Maine Assistance Program for Lawyers and Judges