I have previously blogged about the mental health challenges that judges face. Daily confrontations with purveyors of extreme violence, sexual abuse, child abuse, and various other forms of reprehensible human behavior unquestionably take their toll. Having to make difficult decisions that directly impact the lives of fellow citizens creates an additional, and significant, layer of stress. High-profile cases, and the unwanted media and political attention that accompany them, also contribute. Judges can also face stresses that are not unique to the judicial workplace, such as long hours, heavy workloads, and insufficient resources.
A new study from the American Bar Association drives the point home. It found that nationwide, the top ten sources of judicial stress were, in order:
- Importance/impact of decisions
- Heavy docket of cases
- Unprepared attorneys
- Self-represented litigants
- Same parties repeatedly, but not addressing underlying issues
- Public ignorance of courts
- Long hours of work without break
- Hearing contentious family-law issues
- Isolation in judicial service
- Insufficient support staff
The study also revealed that a little over 2% of judges have contemplated suicide.
Mental health awareness is growing in the American workplace, including the courthouse. It’s a welcome development.