New Canadian program helps lawyers, judges deal with mental health issues

CALGARY – As a long-time lawyer and the past president of the Canadian Bar Association, Michele Hollins says she understands the pressure to appear self-assured.

“As lawyers, we really are compelled to present a consistently confident view of ourselves, our place in the system and in our client’s businesses.”

Hollins says her confident exterior crumbled when she began experiencing depression nearly a decade ago.

“I didn’t want to work, I didn’t want to eat, I didn’t want to be with people,” Hollins said.

According to the Mood Disorder Society of Canada, lawyers and other professionals are at a greater risk for many mental health issues including depression, anxiety, addiction and suicide.

“This group of people, while vulnerable, is also particularly hesitant to ask for help,” said Doron Gold, staff clinician with Homewood Health, a centre in Guelph, Ont.

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It’s why the Canadian Bar Association has partnered with the Mood Disorder Society to launch a new online initiative.

Mental Health and Wellness in the Legal Profession is an online educational course that raises awareness and gives lawyers, judges and law students information about mental health and addiction issues, their causes and symptoms, as well as prevention treatment options.

“In the privacy of your own office, you can log in and get a great deal of help information,” said Hollins.

Gold says all professionals can benefit from making mental wellness a priority before problems arise.

“People hear things like, ‘eat right, exercise, take vacations, get enough sleep’,” he said. “They hear those things all the time, but they often don’t do them.

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