Statement from CBA-NB Regarding Supporting Lawyers' and Judges' Mental Health

  • June 19, 2019

On May 14, 2019, the Supreme Court of Canada’s Hon. Justice ClĂ©ment Gascon released a 245-word statement in which he shared his history of struggling with depression and anxiety disorders.

The Hon. Chief Justice Richard Wagner publicly praised Justice Gascon for his comments stating:

The statement made by Justice Gascon earlier today takes courage. My colleagues and I are very proud of Justice Gascon, and he has my full support and confidence. I look forward to seeing him back on the bench this week.

The New Brunswick Branch of the Canadian Bar Association (“CBA-NB”) considers the mental health and wellness of its members a serious and ongoing issue. CBA-NB is thankful to Justice Gascon for sharing his own history relating to mental health and shedding light on this important and often stigmatized issue.

The Lawyers’ Assistance Program in New Brunswick (“LAP NB”) has an ongoing campaign “Law needs wellness because …” wherein members of the New Brunswick bar share their photos and comments on the importance of wellness in the legal profession.

According to recent statistics from the LAP NB, almost 93% of usage was for counselling services; with psychological counselling being the most requested service. The top presenting issues were depression, stress and anxiety.

In any given year, one in five Canadians will experience a mental health problem significant enough to require treatment. Lawyers may have the highest rates of depression among various occupations, with studies finding that 19% of lawyers experience depression, that lawyers face depression four times more often than the rest of the population, and that up to 40% of law students may have significant levels of depressive symptoms. Recent studies on mental health in the legal profession have found that approximately 23 percent of lawyers exhibited stress and up to 61 percent suffer from anxiety-related symptoms.

CBA National and CBA-NB are both proud to offer several resources through CBA Wellness to assist members’ with their mental health and wellness.

One of CBA National Resources is the Mental Health and Wellness in the Legal Profession online course. This course was developed in partnership with the Mood Disorder Society of Canada and Bell Let’s Talk. The course is a national accredited self-learning program designed to provide Canadian lawyers, judges and law students, education, supports and resources to assist them in understanding mental health and addiction issues. The course not only helps in eliminating stigma surrounding mental health issues by offering personal stories from members throughout the profession, but also provides an opportunity for participants to confidentially interact with their peers on a variety of topics related to mental health and wellness.

CBA-NB also promotes and supports mental and wellness of members in the legal profession through the New Brunswick Lawyers Assistance Program, which provides confidential referral and short-term counselling services for practising members of the legal profession, including their staff and families.

The Office of the Commissioner for Federal Judicial Affairs Canada and the Offices of the Chief Provincial Court Judges in each province and territory also offer mental health support through the Judges Counselling Program. The Judges Counselling Program provides federally and provincially appointed active and retired Judges, Justices of the Peace, Masters, Judicial Clerks, Prothonotaries, and their spouses and eligible children with confidential access to short-term counselling and work life solutions services.

CBA-NB and LAP NB encourage all members of the profession—lawyers, law students, and judges alike—to continue the conversation around mental health and wellness, and to be leaders in the education and building of a culture of wellness, self-care and positive workplaces devoid of stigma throughout the legal profession.