Opening Up About Mental Health


Opening Up About Mental Health

Lawyers are struggling with their mental health.

In October 2022, the National Study on Wellness in the Legal Profession released its findings. According to the study, 57% of us have experienced psychological distress, 56% have experienced burnout symptoms, 28% have experienced moderate to severe depression, 36% have experienced anxiety and 24% have had suicidal ideation. 

For many, including myself, the findings of the study were alarming but not surprising.

I experienced mental health issues early in my career as a lawyer. In retrospect, I had likely been living with undiagnosed depression from the time I started university. My experience with depression included feelings of sadness, hopelessness, moodiness, lack of motivation, lack of self-compassion, fatigue and periods of self-isolation. There was also a lot of shame and fear. Shame about not being able to “snap out of it” and fear that I would be exposed and then subjected to stigma.

Matters came to a head in the summer of 2007, shortly after I completed my articles. I had burned myself out and my mental health declined to the point where it was impacting my work. Although I was working long hours as a first-year associate, I was getting very little work done. I was paralyzed by indecision. Tasks that should have taken an hour to complete would take a day. My work quality suffered. When I wasn’t at the office, I tried my best to avoid family and friends as much as possible. I was spending an inordinate amount of time and energy trying to appear like everything was okay. But I was not okay.

Back in 2007, I would never have imagined that in 2023 I would not only still be in the profession, but I would hold a leadership position. Yet here I am, still a lawyer (and loving it) and writing my first BarTalk column as the CBABC President 2023/2024.

It was a long journey getting to where I am now. It wasn’t easy and I needed a lot of help along the way.

Back in the summer of 2007, most days were bad days. However, I would on occasion experience days that weren’t so bad. Fortunately, on one of those days I mustered up the courage to contact Derek LaCroix, KC at the Lawyers Assistance Program. That first call with Derek was the start of my path to mental wellness. I’ll write more about that path in a future column, but for now, I’m happy to report that my depression has been in remission for almost 10 years and my life is much different from what it was in 2007.

I’m fortunate to be at a point in my life and career where I can speak openly about my experience with mental illness and not face any (or many) negative consequences. Others in our profession are not so lucky. When I was elected CBABC President I committed to using my position of privilege to raise awareness about mental illness in our profession and to be an advocate for change. I should note that I am not a mental health professional, nor am I an expert in mental health policy. I am simply a person with lived experience, a platform and a strong desire to be a part of the solution.

The CBABC has long been a leader in our profession in promoting and advocating for mental wellness. I look forward to sharing more with you about the work the CBABC is doing on this front, along with my own thoughts about how we can effect change. I’m also looking forward to engaging with the profession over the course of my term on this and other important issues. In the meantime, I encourage you to check out