According to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), one in five Canadians experience a mental illness or addiction problem in any given year and by the age of 40, one in two has or will have a mental illness.
Lawyers guide their clients through the Canadian judicial system, presenting possible solutions to legal difficulties, as well as advising clients on decisions that may have legal ramifications. Lawyers may be representing a person, a corporation, or even government, and no matter how big the case file is, lawyers have a responsibility to their clients and to perform to the best of their knowledge and ability. The duty lawyers have to their clients can have them working late evenings, weekends, and can ultimately lead to burnout.
Statistics show that 58% of lawyers in Canada have experienced significant stress and burnout. Stress and burnout are linked to high rates of lawyers experiencing anxiety, addiction issues, and depression. Lawyers suffer from depression at a rate that is almost four times higher than the general population. The law is a very competitive industry with intense pressure and high stakes.
“When we ignore signs of distress, the quality of our work and lives can plummet.”
Balancing the demands of work, education and family commitments can be challenging for CPLED students. Part of making a successful transition from law school to practice is learning how to manage stress in a healthy manner and knowing when to seek outside help.
Students in the Practice Readiness Education Program (PREP) are no less prone or susceptible to stress and resulting dips in life quality. PREP includes heavy workloads, tight deadlines, and the pressures of regular assessment. For those with articles, these education stressors compete with work demands and the adjustment to the practice of law, including the characteristics and styles of a student’s principal or firm. For those without an articling role, work pressures are replaced by the demands of networking and job search activities, including application deadlines and the stress of interviews.
Some students will naturally deal with the myriad of pressures better than others, but for all, it is important to monitor one’s emotional state, recognize when pressures are becoming unmanageable, and reach out for help before a situation gets out of control.
If you are interested in reading further on law students and practising lawyers dealing with mental health issues, follow the links to these articles and case studies:
- An Ontario lawyer on addiction, anxiety and depression
- A Calgary lawyer and mother on depression
- A University of Toronto law student on anxiety
- An Osgoode Hall law student on striving for perfection
- An American law student with OCD finding strength to ask for help
- A mature law student on competition and failing forward
- A New Zealand lawyer dealing with anxiety
CPLED students have access to a variety of health and wellness supports, some through their law society and some from community resources. For the supports in your area, click on the provincial links below.
Students with articles and lawyers registered with the Law Society of Manitoba:
- Lawyers Health and Wellness Program, and Lawyers Helping Lawyers peer support service.