When Ontario Bar Association (OBA) president, Orlando Da Silva, spoke candidly about his own struggles with mental health, his story struck a chord with many in the profession. Subsequently, the OBA has launched a new initiative called Opening Remarks, aimed at addressing mental health in the legal sector. “CMHA Ontario applauds the OBA’s efforts to raise the profile of mental health issues in the legal community,” says Camille Quenneville, CEO, CMHA Ontario. “Speaking out about personal mental health issues, like Orlando Da Silva has done, takes tremendous courage and we commend him for taking these steps to eliminate the stigma and discrimination often associated with mental health.”
Recent evidence suggests that lawyers are about four times more likely to suffer from mental illness or psychological difficulties than the general population. But due to stigma, many legal professionals living with mental illnesses do so in silence for fear of losing their jobs, reputations or even licenses.
The reasons for this are varied and multi-faceted. Robert Bircher from the Lawyers Assistance Program of BC, notes in a recent article that “the ‘usual suspects’ are long hours, the adversarial nature of law, the focus on billable hours, increased competition for clients, the dehumanization of the practice, focusing on the business aspects of law rather than people combined with a culture of materialism, perfectionism, and workaholism.”
The OBA’s Opening Remarks initiative has three main components that all aim to provide information and resource support on mental health issues to Ontario Lawyers:
- Mindful lawyer series is an education program to support the mental health of lawyers.
- Mental health briefs provide practical tips on identifying and coping with mental health challenges faced by Ontario Lawyers.
- Interview series features members of the legal community and experts in the mental health field discuss their own experiences and supports available.
Read more about the initiative on the OBA website.