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Mental Health Week: Fostering Wellness and Mental Health During the Pandemic

Mental Health Week: Fostering Wellness and Mental Health During the Pandemic

By: Teresa Donnelly, Treasurer | April 29, 2021

As legal professionals who serve and care for others, your work may pose real challenges to your mental health and wellness. For many practitioners, those challenges are now multiplied as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many people are left feeling isolated, overwhelmed, and anxious for the future. You are not alone.

This year marks the 70th anniversary of Mental Health Week, hosted by the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA). Mental Heath Week, which runs May 3-9, 2021, is an opportunity for communities to celebrate, protect and promote mental health.  It is time we end the stigma associated with mental illness.

As Treasurer of the Law Society of Ontario, recognizing and supporting the mental health and well-being of lawyers and paralegals has been a priority for me since day one. During my experience as a prosecutor for more than 26 years, I dealt with cases involving homicide, domestic violence, sexual assault, and impaired driving causing death or bodily harm. I personally understand the pressures and stresses that are associated with our work.

During these challenging times, to protect our mental health and foster our wellness we must continue to stay connected with our loved ones, friends and colleagues while practising physical distancing. We must also reach out when we need help. An important resource available for lawyers, paralegals, law and paralegal students, licensing candidates and judges in Ontario and eligible family members is the Member Assistance Program or MAP.  MAP offers counselling, peer to peer support and online resources. Please reach out to MAP or share this resource with your legal friends or colleagues who are struggling. You are not alone. Support is available.

To hear directly from legal professionals who have lived mental health experience about how they tackle these issues in their professional lives, please join us at the Law Society’s inaugural Mental Health for Legal Professionals Summit on May 19 and 20. Speakers will discuss the impact of workplace and legal culture on members’ mental health and share tips to reduce stigma and promote inclusion in the legal professions.

This program is offered free and is eligible for up to 8 EDI Professionalism Hours.

For more information and to register, please visit the program page at https://store.lso.ca/mental-health-summit.

In addition to the Member Assistance program, whatever stage you are at in your journey as a legal professional, the Law Society is here to support you with tools and resources. Whether you are opening, expanding or winding down your practice, start here to access programs, tools and information that can help meet your goals: www.LSO.ca/YourSouce.

There are many other resources available to us.  The Ontario government has listed many free mental health, wellness, and addiction resources at https://www.ontario.ca/page/find-mental-health-support. The Canadian government offers additional mental health support, through a new online portal called Wellness Together Canada.

By working together, we can help break the stigma around mental illness, and provide better care for people facing mental health challenges in the legal professions and in our communities. 

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