Striving for mental wellness in the legal profession

April 30, 2020

Particularly now, mental health is an issue of critical importance across all professions, including and especially the legal profession. At the best of times, the stress of the practice of law can have a negative effect on a person’s mental health and now the added stress of where the practice of law is heading is an additional weight on our shoulders. Research on mental illness amongst lawyers in the US and Canada shows that lawyers experience higher risk of mental health crises such as depression and stress/burnout. The legal community as a whole must face the fact that lawyers can suffer from mental illness and need support in overcoming its effects.

The Alberta Lawyers’ Assistance Society (Assist) is a non-profit organization providing confidential help to lawyers, law students, and their immediate families with personal issues. Having had been a Director of Assist for almost eight years, I have seen firsthand how providing resources to cope with personal issues has led to maintaining a healthy practice and achieving success in law. Each provincial law society provides similar programs and resources.

Reaching out for help is vital and these assistance programs provide professional counselling services to find positive ways to help clarify issues and develop tangible strategies to deal with stress and trauma.

Encouraging positive mental wellness in the profession also requires a change in how support and treatment of mental illness is perceived. Fostering open dialogue and educating lawyers about the importance of mental wellbeing is key to destigmatizing mental illness. The legal community needs to rally behind the idea that maintaining mental wellness not only strengthens the lawyer, but also the firm and clients they serve.

Each provincial assistance program is voluntary and confidential. Here is a list of resources for each province:

AB – http://albertalawyersassist.ca/
BC – https://www.lapbc.com/
MB – https://lawsociety.mb.ca/for-lawyers/supports-for-lawyers/health-wellness-program/
NB – https://homeweb.ca/ *Register using NBLAP as your company name to access the Homewood website
NL – https://lsnl.ca/professionals-assistance-program/
NT – https://homewoodhealth.com/corporate
NS – www.nslap.ca
NU – http://albertalawyersassist.ca/nunavut/
ON – http://www.olap.ca/
PE – https://homewoodhealth.com/corporate
QB –https://www.barreau.qc.ca/fr/ressources-avocats/services-avocats-outils-pratique/pamba/
SK – https://lawyersconcernedforlawyers.ca
YT – http://lawsocietyyukon.com/for-the-lawyer/lawyer-assistance-program/