Starting the Conversation
As OBA President, one of my mandates is to promote mental health awareness within the legal community. It’s an important topic – one that is personal not only to me but also the hundreds of other lawyers and students I have met since taking on my leadership role with the OBA.
Early in my term, I began speaking openly with fellow OBA members, my employer and the media about my experiences with depression and the challenges of managing good mental health alongside a career in law. The response and reaction to my disclosure has been enlightening.
While I have been overwhelmed by the positive support I have received from my colleagues, peers, and even strangers within the sector, I have been equally impressed by the number of individuals I have met while travelling the province who have offered to share their own stories. Some say they are barely coping with the heavy workloads, others are feeling isolated, and others just know that something is not right and needs to change.
Certainly, mental illness knows no boundaries, and the legal profession is not immune to the common challenges and struggles that so many Ontarians experience every day.
Two features in this edition of Just. help cast a light on some of the unique experiences lawyers sometimes encounter at certain points in their careers and how those experiences can impact an individual’s wellbeing. Aimless in Articling touches on some of the anxieties common to new lawyers early in their careers, while Big Law Blues considers the ups and downs inherent in our sector.
These stories and those that I have been hearing from members of the legal community have served as powerful signals to me that more can be done to better support those working in the legal profession.
At the moment, I see a tremendous opportunity for our profession to better manage our wellbeing and support one another. As OBA President, I want to put some momentum behind this opportunity.
At the OBA’s last Council meeting, we launched Opening Remarks, an initiative designed to begin and advance a conversation about mental health in the legal profession. Opening Remarks is a versatile program customized especially for the legal community and OBA members.
A cornerstone of the initiative is the Mindful Lawyer CPD program aimed at helping lawyers balance their own needs with those of their clients. A host of other “Mental Health Briefs” that will include resources and tips about available mental health supports will also be shared throughout the year, culminating with “All Rise” a summit on mental health in various professions.
Through Opening Remarks I am hoping that, as a community of lawyers, we can help lift the stigma of mental health within our profession and begin connecting one another with the everyday supports available to us.
The helpful community of lawyers I have found through the OBA has been remarkable. Whenever I felt depression coming on, I have been able to reach out to the OBA membership for encouragement and support and it has always been helpful to know that there are other lawyers who understand and can appreciate my challenges.
Having the opportunity to easily connect with peers and other colleagues to share experiences and lend our support to one another, is one more way that we can encourage successful, thriving careers rooted in healthy, balanced lifestyles.
Encouraging people to talk freely about mental health and its place in our sector has been one of my goals as OBA President, and I am pleased to see the conversation that is now underway.
Let’s keep the conversation going.
Orlando Da Silva, LSM