Groundwork laid to increase preventive and regulatory mental health and wellness initiatives
TORONTO, April 28, 2016 /CNW/ - The Law Society's governing body today approved a long-term mental health strategy that builds on the Law Society's existing mental health initiatives and lays the groundwork to provide additional supports or programs that fall within the organization's mandate.
The plan is the work of the Law Society's Mental Health Strategy Task force, initiated last June. Law Society benchers confirmed their commitment to these issues last fall, by including mental health initiatives as a strategic priority for the 2015-19 governing term.
Several studies show that legal professionals may be at higher risk of experiencing mental health illness and addictions. For example, results from a Canadian Bar Association survey show that stress/burnout and anxiety were two issues perceived as most prevalent in the legal profession (94% and 68%, respectively), and the top two issues that were personally confronted by those surveyed (58% and 48%, respectively). According to another source*, "approximately 20 per cent of the entire legal profession suffers from clinically significant levels of substance abuse, depression, anxiety or some other form of psychopathology."
"Addressing mental health and addictions issues is a key priority for the Law Society. More and more, workplaces are breaking down barriers by directly prioritizing mental and physical well-being and this benefits individuals, clients — and the profession as a whole," says Law Society Treasurer Janet E. Minor. "I am extremely pleased that we now have a formal, consolidated strategy in place which will result in better assistance for our licensees and also protect the public."
"Our new mental health strategy emphasizes our current resources — such as the Member Assistance Program — and will focus on areas where the Law Society, as the regulator, can make a difference," adds Law Society Bencher and Task Force Chair William McDowell.
The long-term plan and vision will address mental health and addiction issues through both preventive and regulatory strategies. A key element is consideration of the role that diversionary and confidential processes — including capacity hearings held in the absence of the public — may play in appropriate circumstances.
Implementation of the strategy will be guided by a special task force of up to five benchers. The full task force report is now available online.
* Megan Seto, University of Ottawa, "Killing Ourselves: Depression as an institutional Workplace and Professionalism Problem," (2012)
SOURCE The Law Society of Upper Canada
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