What is the hidden cost of litigation? The vast majority of individuals who undertake legal action with counsel understand the financial burden associated. Lawyer’s charge for their time and litigation is often time-consuming. The financial costs are outlined in a retainer agreement signed prior to commencing the action. The costs which are not spoken to in any retainer agreement is the mental and psychological toll litigation takes.
I do not purport to be an expert in mental health. My observations are simply that. The purpose of this blog is two-fold. One, highlight the mental toll associated with litigation. Two, help identify way’s litigants can alleviate the anxiety associated.
For most, legal proceedings are completely foreign. Many people have never attended court nor engaged in such a process. In the context of family law, often we are left to deal with extremely sensitive issues such as separation, divorce, a division of assets, and parenting. The parties involved are often individuals who at one point in time cared deeply for each other. Often children are involved only elevating the tension and stress. Litigation is often contentious and adversarial from the beginning and throughout. Pitting the two parties against each other, in the pursuit of one side coming out the victor. Positive feeling’s, emotions, and connections are customarily severed by the end.
Often I am able to see the physical manifestation of stress and anxiety throughout the litigation process. The client will be shaking, crying, sleep deprived, and even feel physically ill. I inquire as to coping strategies they are utilizing throughout the process. Frequently I hear the same lighthearted response of having a drink. I can see the weight of the situation blanketing them. Yet, very few individuals either seek out professional help or engage in any form of mental hygiene. Being engulfed in the matter, they are unable to recognize the cost being paid in terms of their mental well-being. Leaving individuals overwhelmed and burnt out.
Engaging in mental hygiene can be as simple as exercising daily. After exercising people often feel a sense of positivity and accomplishment. Yoga and meditation have been proven to provide similar benefits. Proper diet, can be extremely important. Too often we feel overwhelmed and settle for a meal that is quick and easy but lacking the proper nutrition. Meal’s of this nature leave many feeling lethargic, or it will negatively impact their mood.
For many, a stigma still surrounds the topic of mental health. For this reason, they are unwilling to speak openly with friends, family, or professionals about their mental health. Slowly, we as a society are moving past this damaging stigma. It is perfectly fine to feel overwhelmed by the process. The issue arises when we, speaking collectively, do not address this feeling. Speak to friends, family and professional help if necessary. You are not alone and will only benefit from verbalizing these issues. Remember if you do not properly care for yourself, you cannot properly care for anyone else.
Attached is a link to a TEDx talk from Guy Winch, a psychologist. He asks the audience to take our emotional health as seriously as our physical health.
Craig Donkin is a Student-at-Law with Rowanoak Law Office LLP.