Have you ever felt stressed, depressed or overwhelmed? Well, you are not alone. It is quite common for judges to experience those same feelings, if not more, due to the rigorous demands of sitting on the bench and making life altering decisions day in and day out. Some judges can easily manage their life experiences, while others may find themselves struggling with an anxiety disorder, clinical depression, or even alcohol and substance abuse.
Nevertheless, unlike many other professionals, judges suffer with these conditions in silence, fearing that any slight disclosure or call for help could jeopardize their reputation, their career and even their livelihood. Some keep their “secret” hidden until they leave the bench, while others have the unfortunate experience of unbridled public exposure and disciplinary proceedings after an arrest or psychiatric intervention.
Surely, there has to be a better way!
In an effort to assist their fellow colleagues who refrain from seeking help due to concerns of confidentiality, judges from around the state with extensive drug and mental health court experience, have formed a committee with other experts to develop the Florida Judicial Wellness Program. The design of FJWP will be exclusively for judges and will operate independent of the Florida Lawyers Assistance Program. Its purpose is to assist judges seeking help with mental health and emotional disorders, as well as substance abuse or other addictive behaviors. The program will operate as the central point of contact for all Florida judges to obtain confidential support and referral services. It will include the “judges helping judges” component with judges in recovery serving as mentors for those seeking help, guidance or sponsorship. All FJWP services will be free of charge and will allow judges who participate voluntarily to maintain complete anonymity.
The mission of the FJWP will be to support and assist judges in need while offering referrals to both preventive and rehabilitative services necessary to achieve the ultimate goal of wellness; and it’s for judges only.