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Fall/Winter 2022, Topic of the Quarter

Lawsuits and Mental Health – Part II by Jonathan Watson

The advent of 2023 means the end of our series on mental health and wellness. To review, our first posting in the series dealt with workplace bullying and hostile work environments. The second focused on how lawsuits affected the mental health of litigants, their attorneys, and even organizations such as law libraries that aim to best serve pro per customers. This final posting will focus on the wellness aspects of dealing with a lawsuit.

How might wellness be defined? The UC Davis Student Health and Counseling Services devised the following “Eight Dimensions of Wellness”: emotional, occupational, intellectual, environmental, financial, physical, social and spiritual. Although you might be put off by the title, if we adapt the model devised by UC Davis, you could say that the 2010 edition of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Lawsuits primarily encourages emotional and physical wellness. Some of the stress-relieving methods that the book proposes include mild exercise, adhering to a sleep schedule, seeking support groups or therapists, and closely communicating with counsel.   

What about wellness for counsel? In her article “How Law Firms Can Help Litigators Foster Mental Wellness”, Ortega (2022) mentions how law firms have adopted work environments that emphasize teamwork and systems in which litigators can communicate their mental health needs. Abella (2022) wrote how the pandemic affected the work life balance of attorneys and paraprofessionals (e.g., older/single attorneys struggling with loneliness, working parents juggling the care of children and elderly family members, etc.). Abella mentions the Lawyers Assistance Program that is available to California attorneys, which offers short-term counseling sessions.

While the above materials address maintaining one’s mental health and wellness during a lawsuit, what about after the case concludes? Returning to Strasburger’s “The Litigant-Patient: Mental Health Consequences of Civil Litigation” (1999), he mentioned that stress can persist even after a case’s conclusion. In his 2008 article “Lessons from Losing…Defeat”, Gwilliam specifically wrestles with what might be feared most: being the defeated party. He addresses how the concepts of justice and ambition can be harmful when neither prevails, and counsel is left unsatisfied. In which case, is losing supposed to teach a person about humility and perseverance as Gwilliam asserts?

Even though Gwilliam is speaking from the perspective of an attorney, his personal lessons might still be worth reading as a layperson. You might have some legal recourse if you lose depending upon the nature of your case, but will that be wise if your mental health and wellness is dwindling?  More so, rather than seeing it as a sign of weakness, could accepting litigious defeat be liberating? This, of course, is something to be decided by the litigant and having a support system (as described by the articles in this posting) could be useful to gain a better standpoint.

As a reminder, be sure to check out Solano County Library’s mental health kits. If you are unable to check out the kits, you can explore similar materials by using Solano County Library’s databases. Whether you are a pro per litigant or a legal expert, be sure to visit Solano County Law Library for your legal reference needs!  

This blog posting is for informational purposes only and is not intended to substitute for legal advice. Please consult with a legal expert for the best guidance.

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