Dec 31. 2019
When Wellness Strategies Are Not Enough
For lawyers, the end of the year piles on the pressure to get everything done before the holidays. Although struggles with mental health can be present at any time of year, the holidays can shine a spotlight on unhealthy coping mechanisms, strained interpersonal relationships, and an unmanageable workload. If you, or someone you know, have been struggling, and it’s become more than just “a stressful period” or “something that will pass”, you might need more than just a moment of pause and some wellness tips. Here are some ways to know when it’s time to look for outside help.
Signs that you (or a colleague) need help
Working in the law can be hazardous to your mental health.
- Lawyers, doctors and police officers face substance abuse issues more than those in any other profession.
- Studies show that in the legal profession, there is a “strong correlation between signs of depression and traditional markers of career success.”
- According to the Canadian Bar Association, “lawyers perceive stress and/or burnout, anxiety, and depression as some of the biggest health issues facing [the] profession.”
- Suicide has been reported as the “third leading cause of death for lawyers,” with rates higher than the general population.
How do you know when it’s time to get help?
Every lawyer will experience some level of stress. For some, this may develop into mental health issues like depression and anxiety. Alcohol or other substances may be used as a way to cope with the stress, putting people at risk of developing dependency on those substances.
Struggles with mental health and substances build over time. If you see these warning signs—in yourself or a colleague—it may be time to seek help.
- changes in professional appearance
- lateness or absenteeism
- changes in work performance and output
- inconsistent behaviour or mood with clients or colleagues
- appearing tired, anxious or withdrawn
- struggles with focus, decision-making, and organization
- physical indicators such as sudden weight loss or bloodshot eyes
- Some signs of depression:
- persistent sadness
- changes in behaviour, including a loss of interest in activities
- increased fatigue and sleep difficulties
- negative thoughts, even in response to positive events
- mental slowdown
- suicidal thoughts
How to get help
There are many places to turn to for help with mental health or substance abuse.
- Lawyer Assistance Programs are available in every province and territory to provide confidential support to members of the Canadian Bar Association.
- Judges Counselling Program provides confidential assistance to Canadian judges and their families.
- Individual law firms often have resources for mental health support.
- Canadian Mental Health Association offers community-based support across the country.
- Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention provides a directory of 24-hour crisis centres across the country.
These resources are available at any stage of a struggle with mental health or substance abuse.
In a crisis situation, the best resource is your local Emergency Department, where mental health professionals are available to help 24 hours a day.