A Time to Learn: Lawyers and Mental Health

Dealing with mental health issues like depression, stress and anxiety is fraught with age-old taboos, stigmas and obstacles to openness – and none of it gets any easier when your job is to be the calm voice of logic and reason in an argument. It might make good business sense to keep your concerns to yourself, but ignoring the issue – for example, depression, anxiety or stress – won’t make it go away.

They say acknowledging you have a problem is the first step to recovery, but how do you know whether you have the kind of problem that needs help? And where do you go for that assistance?

At the CBA Legal Conference in Calgary last month, the CBA, along with its partners the Mood Disorders Society of Canada and Bell Let’s Talk launched an online educational program that will give lawyers, judges and law students resources to help them understand their mental health issues and provide them with the tools they need to begin their recovery. Virtually all law societies in the country provided funding for the project, along with the CBA and its partners.

Mental Health and Wellness in the Legal Profession is a self-directed educational tool that has its roots in a 2013 survey of Canadian lawyers that suggested mental health was a far bigger concern than the profession’s traditional alcohol and addiction issues. While there’s a wealth of information on the internet about mood disorders, it’s hard to tell the good from the bad. Respondents to the survey indicated they wanted access to reliable information about it.

The curriculum is designed to give lawyers solid information about mood disorders, their causes, symptoms, and prevention and treatment options; and offer support and resources for recovery and maintaining wellness. The course also addresses the question of stigma in the context of the legal profession and suggests ways to deal with it. With testimonials from practitioners who’ve been through it and come out the other side, the course will help lawyers identify their own issues – their symptoms and triggers. It will guide them through a self-assessment process and identify next steps to take.

The course’s four modules will deal with identifying problems; discussing the impact of stigma; provide options for intervention; and give resources for taking a proactive approach to wellness.

Lawyers take the course by themselves, and can start or stop at their own convenience. The course, open to all lawyers free of charge, is available on the CBA Wellness (formerly CBA Legal Profession Assistance Conference, or LPAC) website.

— Kim Covert

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