“Stress” and “burnout” are common phenomena in our profession

Prioritizing Mental Health

Su Forbes, QC
Chief Operating Officer of Lawyers Indemnity Fund

“Stress” and “burnout” are common phenomena in our profession but many of us overlook that they are taking a toll on our physical, mental, and emotional states. Stress results in poorer-quality work products, disrupted health and higher turnover. In the long term, stress can cause people to use, misuse or even become addicted to alcohol or legal/illegal drugs, or to experience challenges to physical or mental health. Most of us do not appreciate the costly effect of stress and burnout on the firms we work for. However, even fewer appreciate the long term negative impact on the profession as a whole. The pathway forward is to start now.

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.