Report: CBA Wellness Meeting

  • February 16, 2018

By Candice Pollack and Nicolas Joubert

In October 2017, CBA Wellness held its annual meeting in Winnipeg, Manitoba. I, along with Nicolas Joubert, had the pleasure of taking part as representatives of CBA Young Lawyers.

The one-day meeting had a full agenda, with each session examining the challenge of mental wellness among lawyers from a different perspective. Some sessions focused on better identifying the nature of the problem through statistics and storytelling, while others provided information about available resources for mental wellness in the workplace.

We started our day off with the statistic that lawyers are three times more likely than the general population to suffer from mental illness and/or substance abuse. The workshop featured various speakers who spoke on topics including mental health first aid and preventing psychological injury in the workplace. A pair of researchers presented the findings of their study on the well-being of American law students which produced alarming statistics. Of the 3,400 law students surveyed, 53 per cent indicated they had been drunk in the past 30 days, nine per cent indicated they had misused or abused prescription drugs and six per cent indicated they had used cocaine in the last year. In addition, Michael Bryant, former Attorney General of Ontario, shared his experience battling an alcohol addiction while in public office and highlighted the fact that addiction and mental health is a concern for everyone.

There are many factors that play into an individual’s wellbeing but, as former Supreme Court of Canada Chief Justice Brian Dickson put it, “a person’s employment is an essential component of his or her sense of identity, self-worth and emotional wellbeing. Accordingly, the conditions in which a person works are highly significant in shaping the whole compendium of psychological, emotional and physical elements of a person’s dignity.” If we can fight for this principle in a courtroom, why do we so often neglect to apply it in our own workplaces? As a young lawyer, the most important take-away from this meeting for me was the knowledge that our profession is having meaningful conversations about ensuring the mental wellbeing of lawyers. It was refreshing and reassuring to see a group of people so dedicated to improving the wellbeing of the legal profession, and all of the people who are in it.

The CBA Young Lawyers Section is establishing a Mental Health & Awareness Committee to identify and inform young lawyers of relevant and available mental health and addictions resources, and to advocate for the importance of MH&A programs for young lawyers within the CBA, law societies and the profession generally. If you are interested in being involved, please contact:

Candice Pollack and Nicolas Joubert are Young Lawyers members-at-large.