The Law Society makes addressing mental health and substance use issues a priority

A 2016 study published in the Journal of Addiction Medicine of almost 14,000 American lawyers found that:

  • over 36 per cent showed signs of possible alcohol dependence
  • More than 45 per cent of responding lawyers described experiencing depression, and
  • 11.5 per cent reported having had suicidal thoughts at some point in their careers.

If those findings are extrapolated to British Columbia:

  • 4,241 lawyers in the province may be dealing with alcohol dependence,
  • 5,325 have experienced depression, and
  • 1,340 have had suicidal thoughts.

According to the same study, the primary barrier to lawyers seeking treatment or assistance is stigma and the fear of others finding out that they need help.

Mental health and substance issues are also driving lawyers to leave the profession early, some after they have become the subject of discipline proceedings, complaints or other claims, or after experiencing interpersonal difficulties at home or at work.

The Law Society has made a commitment to improve education and support a culture shift in how the profession approaches mental health and substance use issues. As a regulator, the Law Society has vowed to identify ways to reduce stigma, and to review its discipline and admissions processes to consider how best to deal with mental health and substance use issues.

Click here to read the Spring 2018 Benchers' Bulletin feature article on mental health issues in the legal profession.

Mental Health Task Force

The Law Society's Benchers established a Mental Health Task Force at their January 28, 2018 meeting. The task force's mandate is to:

  • identify ways to reduce the stigma of mental health issues; and
  • develop an integrated mental health review concerning regulatory approaches to discipline and admissions.

Read the task force's terms of reference.

Members of the legal community are welcome to send ideas, input or feedback to the task force by email at mentalhealth@lsbc.org.

Resources for lawyer wellness and support

If you or someone you know requires support, do not hesitate to reach out for help. The Law Society funds personal counselling and referral services through LifeWorks Canada Ltd. Services are confidential and available at no cost to individual BC lawyers and articled students and their immediate families. For more information on how to access LifeWorks’ services, log in to member portal or call 1.888.307.0590.

In addition, the Lawyers Assistance Program provides confidential support, counselling, referrals and peer interventions for lawyers, their families, support staff and articled students who need help to deal with alcohol or chemical dependencies, stress, depression or other personal problems. For more information, visit the Lawyers Assistance Program’s website or contact them at 604.685.2171 or info@lapbc.com.