- American Psychological Association comes out against mental health disclosures for new lawyers
- States are slowly dropping such questions from lawyer character and fitness reviews
Aug 8 (Reuters) – The world’s largest professional psychology group has joined the push to end the required disclosure of personal mental health information by individuals applying to become lawyers.
The American Psychological Association said Monday that it approved a policy pledging to work alongside the American Bar Association and state bar associations to remove questions about mental health diagnoses or treatment history from the character and fitness reviews of aspiring attorneys, which jurisdictions conduct before allowing them to practice there.
“Statistical data reveal that there is no connection between bar application questions about mental health and attorney misconduct and that such questions have not been empirically shown to work as a successful screening tool for who can and cannot practice law in a competent manner,” said the resolution, which the APA’s governing body passed earlier this month.
Mental health advocates say questions about an applicant’s mental health status dissuade law students from seeking help out of fear they will be denied admission to the bar. According to the American Bar Association, 38 jurisdictions include at least one such question on their character and fitness questionnaire.
A 2022 national study of law student well-being found that 44% of survey respondents said the potential threat to their bar admission might deter them from getting help for a mental health issue.
The ABA’s House of Delegates in 2015 adopted a resolution calling for the removal of mental health questions from character and fitness reviews, and at least six states since 2018 have significantly changed or dropped those questions, according to the APA.
New York State eliminated its mental health disclosure for bar admission applicants in 2020 and Ohio dropped its character and fitness question about mental or psychological disorders in January. Virginia law students successfully pushed the state in 2019 to stop asking about mental health.
In addition to advocating for the removal of mental health questions, the APA resolution calls on law schools to “support law students seeking appropriate mental health treatment and reduce the stigma associated with mental health.”
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