Our society’s mental illness crisis does not exist in a vacuum, but is inextricably interwoven with the issues of racism, social equity, and the law. It is a crisis that largely impacts representation of clients and the legal system as a whole. There are too many instances where clients suffering from diagnosed or undiagnosed mental illness are left homeless, injured or incarcerated instead of hospitalized and treated. The idea that a person needs to be in crisis before becoming eligible to receive treatment is a paradox that lawyers representing the mentally ill so often face.
The difficulty of balancing the legal best interests with the mental health needs of a client is compounded by the lack of resources or the availability of those resources. This can be legally and emotionally devastating for a mentally ill client. Representing clients who are struggling with mental illness can also create additional stress for lawyers. Proper medical and psychological care is necessary for clients to present their best selves and resolve their legal problems.