Fear of Discovery

This past February I came out of the closet! A closet that many many people stay in and are afraid to step out of.

At the Mid-Winter Meeting of the CBA I was to report to Council. Instead I told them a story.

It was a story about a man becoming enraged when cut off while driving on a freeway who then chased after the person that cut them off and was stopped for excessive speeding. When the police officer came to the window of the vehicle the man was shaking. He was going fast enough that his vehicle could have been impounded but the police officer gave a reduced fine.

The incident was a wake-up call and the man sought advice from his family doctor and then went to work with a psychologist. He went on medication after being diagnosed with depression. For a year he was on the medication and worked with the psychologist and continues to this day to work with a psychologist.

As I continued with my story I indicated to the audience that this individual was very fearful of revealing to anybody that he was suffering from depression and so told no one other than the director of human resources at his place of employment and his wife. The fear was that if he revealed that he was suffering from depression, he might be fired from his job, he would lose the respect of his colleagues, and would be stigmatized with “mental illness”.

I ended my remarks to the Council by saying the person in that story was myself, John Hoyles.

I closed my remarks by saying that as a result of conversations with others and as a result of seeing the results of a survey conducted by the Legal Profession Assistance Conference showing a high rate of depression, anxiety, burnout, and stress amongst the legal profession I needed to speak out. We need to have an open conversation about this issue.

I urge anybody who is reading this blog, if they are suffering as I was suffering, seek help. I thought I could handle it myself, and I couldn’t. Do not be afraid to tell people about this because this world is indeed changing and greater understanding is growing.

It is only by coming of the closet and dealing with the stigma of mental health issues that we will all help each other.

John Hoyles, Chief Executive Officer, Canadian Bar Association


  1. Jonathan Westphal

    Thank you for sharing your story, Mr. Hoyles.

  2. Thank you SO MUCH for telling your story John. Believe me, you are not alone and your courage will encourage others to seek the help they need. There is still a strong stigma about mental illness but with stories like yours it is possible to overcome it.

  3. Melanie Bueckert

    John, clearly you have progressed from “suffering from depression” to living with depression. Bravo! My mother has been living with chronic clinical depression for the last thirty years so I have some sense of the struggles you have likely been facing and I want to congratulate you for opening up to your professional colleagues about this important issue. I echo your call for further open and honest discussions on mental health issues within the profession, so we can make strides in reducing the stigma sting felt by all those living with mental illness.