Access to Free Civil Legal Aid Can Reduce Stress and Improve Well-Being

A woman in a yellow sweater leans back on a grey couch with her hands behind her head with a relaxed and happy expression on her face

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, a time to increase awareness about the vital role mental health plays in everyone's overall health and well-being. Access to civil legal aid can be a crucial factor in improving the mental health of individuals and communities. According to the World Health Organization, stressful situations can worsen pre-existing health problems and exacerbate mental health conditions, like anxiety and depression. Legal problems can be incredibly stressful and can exacerbate existing mental health issues while potentially causing new health issues to emerge along the way. 

Some common stressful life situations PLA clients face include:

  • Risk of losing their home or housing
  • Denial of needed benefits, including Medicaid, disability, and unemployment compensation 
  • Unexpected tax penalties
  • Lack of support while in recovery from addiction
  • Safety concerns and fears when in need of protection from abuse or custody help
  • Inequitable treatment in the workplace, especially for temporary farmworkers

Civil legal aid can provide individuals with the support and resources they need to address these legal issues, and more, in order to reduce stress and anxiety and improve their overall well-being.

One way that civil legal aid can improve the mental health of those facing a stressful civil legal situation is by providing individuals with access to legal information and representation. Many individuals facing legal problems are not aware of their rights and legal options, which can lead to increased stress and uncertainty. Civil legal aid organizations can provide education and guidance to individuals, helping them to understand their legal options and make informed decisions. Additionally, by providing representation in legal proceedings, civil legal aid organizations can reduce the burden on individuals and help them to avoid the mental health consequences of navigating the legal system alone.

In addition to supporting individual mental health, civil legal aid can also help improve the mental health of communities. By addressing systemic legal issues, civil legal aid can promote community safety and economic stability and reduce the stress and trauma caused by inequity and unjust policies. For example, civil legal aid organizations can help tenants facing eviction to understand their rights and negotiate with landlords, reducing the risk of homelessness and the associated mental health consequences. By working to address broader legal issues affecting communities, civil legal aid organizations can help foster equity and social well-being.

Access to civil legal aid can play a crucial role in promoting mental health and well-being for individuals and communities. According to a survey conducted by PLA, 75% of clients served by our Medical Legal Community Partnership reported feeling less stressed after receiving free civil legal aid services. By providing education, guidance, and representation, civil legal aid organizations can help individuals navigate legal challenges and reduce stress and anxiety. Ultimately, investing in civil legal aid can have a significant positive impact on the mental health of individuals and communities alike.