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

National survey on health and well-being of legal professionals

In late 2022, the Université de Sherbrooke, the Federation of Law Societies of Canada and the Canadian Bar Association released a report on the psychological health determinants of legal professionals in Canada. The report highlights the prevalence of mental health concerns and substance use issues among the legal profession, and showcases the need for more support and resources for those facing these challenges.

A list of recommendations released in December 2022 highlights 10 key areas of focus, including increasing education, resources, diversity, and work-life balance.

The report can be read here and the recommendations can be found here.

The findings of the report are serious and reinforce the importance of the Law Society’s 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. Our Mental Health Task Force has been working to identify ways to reduce the stigma of mental health issues and create an Alternative Discipline Plan for those lawyers it would help. The task force will be considering the recommendations from the report and providing recommendations to the Benchers in 2023.

Alternative discipline process to address mental health challenges

The Benchers adopted a recommendation of the Mental Health Task Force calling for the creation of an alternative discipline process to address circumstances in which there is a connection between a health condition and a conduct issue that has resulted in a complaint investigation. 

The Alternative Discipline Process has launched and will be piloted over three years. At the conclusion of the pilot, the Benchers will make a final determination as to whether to establish it as a permanent regulatory program.

2021 Mental Health Forum

More than 600 participants gathered virtually for a Mental Health Forum hosted by the Law Society and the Continuing Legal Education Society of BC on September 14, 2021 to listen to experts share practical strategies and advice for advancing mental health within the legal profession.

Recordings of the forum sessions are available on CLEBC’s website.

Mental Health Task Force

The Benchers established the Mental Health Task Force in 2018 with a mandate 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

Reports

2022

Implementation of the Mental Health Task Force recommendations

2021

Recommendation on the Development of an Alternative Discipline Process

2020

Second Interim Report

2019

2019 Year End Report
2019 Mid-Year Report

2018

2018 Mid-Year Report
First Interim Report
2018 Year-End Report

Resources for lawyer wellness and support

If you or someone you know requires support, do not hesitate to reach out for help.

Addressing mental health pressures of COVID-19

This is a stressful time. There are several resources that are available to help with the mental health and social consequences of COVID-19.

Lawyers may wish to access LifeWorks, an employee assistance program funded by the Law Society that offers free, confidential, 24/7 support for articled students, lawyers and their immediate families. LifeWorks has added a COVID-19 Support Toolkit, which is continuously updated. More information on how to access LifeWorks is below.

The Lawyers Assistance Program remains open and available to offer peer support and referral services for issues including alcohol and drug dependence, stress, anxiety and depression. Meetings and consultations are available over the phone or through other means. Learn more about its services on their website.

The Canadian Mental Health Association also has resources on managing feelings of anxiety in reaction to COVID-19, available here.

The BC Psychological Association is offering the Covid-19 Psychological Support Service designed to help any BC resident who is experiencing stress, anxiety, or uncertainty due to the evolving COVID-19 pandemic. For more information, visit their website.

LifeWorks Canada

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.

Find out answers to Frequently Asked Questions about Lifeworks' services.

There are three ways to contact LifeWorks 24 hours a day, 7 days a week:

  1. Call the toll-free number: 1.888.307.0590 for a confidential in-person call
  2. Log in to login.lifeworks.com to learn more about the services Lifeworks provides, including website materials and access to a confidential online chat or in-person call:
    Username: lawsocietybc
    Password: healthy
  3. Download the free app on Android or IOS – simply search for “Lifeworks”. Once downloaded, open the app, click on “log in” and enter your Username and Password: lawsocietybc/healthy

Lawyers Assistance Program

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.

Other programs and resources

BC Centre on Substance Use has a mandate to develop, help implement, and evaluate evidence-based approaches to substance use and addiction. Its core functions include research and evaluation, education and training and clinical care guidance.

The Canadian Mental Health Association (BC division) facilitates access to the resources people require to maintain and improve mental health and community integration, build resilience, and support recovery from mental illness.

Crisis Line Association of BC offers a call-in service for those in crisis:

  • 1-800-SUICIDE: Call 1-800-784-2433 if you are having a crisis or are concerned about someone who may be. Available 24 hours a day.
  • Call 310-6789 (no area code needed) toll-free anywhere in B.C. to access emotional support, information and resources specific to mental health and substance use issues. Available 24 hours a day.

The Government of BC offers a range of resources on its Mental Health and Substance Use resource page.

The list of resources above is not intended to be an endorsement of the organizations and is not meant to be exhaustive.