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"We found barely one book on our shelves showing lawyers through the lens of mental health."

February 2020

Lawyers can be voluble and prolific publishers of handbooks, guides, and treatises on mental health law, witness trauma, workplace addiction, outcomes of personal injury, etc. — all from the perspective of lawyer as clinician. But when it comes to personal wellness among lawyers themselves, the silence is deafening and largely unpublished. Search our catalog for “mental health” and you’ll see proof of this. Dozens of titles deal with mental health through the lawyer’s lens. We found barely one book on our shelves showing lawyers through the lens of mental health.

And it’s sandwiched, shockingly, between works on liability for malpractice and professional misconduct. This aged collection of symposium papers from 1995, titled Health and Wellness for Lawyers, includes former Justice Frank lacobucci’s call to action in light of stats (recent at the time) showing nearly one-third of US attorneys suffer alcoholism, depression, or drug use in some form.

Nearly 25 years later, the good work of the Law Society of BC’s Mental Health Task Force echoes this lament and underscores how little we’ve learned in the intervening years. If anything, substance and alcohol use is even higher. And our evidence is still extrapolated from the US. The task force’s 2019 Mid-Year Report mentions, “Very little comparable research has been undertaken in Canada, resulting in a dearth of knowledge about the wellness of Canadian lawyers.” We sincerely hope this changes, and that we can collectively reduce the stigma of mental health issues and add more literature alongside Mr. Iacobucci’s writings from a quarter century ago… and also move them to a better, more dignified neighbourhood within our collection.