BC Lawyers and Addiction: Where to Get Help

April 6, 2016

Dye & Durham Corporation is pleased to be sponsoring the Canadian Bar Association of BC Annual Branch Conference in Whistler, BC April 8th and 9th. This year’s theme is Elevate and you can follow the conference using the hashtag #CBABC16.

A quick review of the agenda reveals all the timely and important topics the conference’s sessions cover, such as ADR, writing strategies, digital evidence, drafting domestic contracts, avoiding defect notices, summary trials, social and medical issues of cannabis, and more.

With ever-increasing awareness of mental health and wellness in both the general population and the legal profession, one topic we think is especially timely is covered in Saturday morning’s session entitled Uppers, Downers, All-Arounders: Addiction – Causes and Treatments.

The session will be presented by Dr. Diane A. Rothon, a research affiliate with UVic and the Medical Director for BC Corrections. The session blurb notes that the information provided will be helpful for work and at home. Conference Co-Chair Lynett Jung says this session is “something that you just can’t miss.”

Indeed, many legal professionals work with people affected by addition in the course of their daily work, and this session will surely provide great insight on that front. Equally as relevant is the well-established fact that lawyers themselves are significantly more likely than the general population to suffer from addiction and depression.

In a candid piece in The Washington Post, The most terrifying part of my drug addiction? That my law firm would find out, lawyer Lisa Smith shares grave new statistics published in the Journal of Addiction Medicine: up to 21% of licensed, employed lawyers qualify as problem drinkers, and the rate is even higher for lawyers under age 30. These rates are more than double those found in the general population.

So in today’s post we wanted to highlight two very important resources available to the legal profession of BC, specifically to support those dealing with addiction and mental health challenges.

Lawyers Assistance Program of BC

LAPBC “provides confidential outreach, education, support and referrals to lawyers and other members of the legal community.” They offer a 24/7 toll-free hotline, along with regular events and support groups throughout BC on topics of health and personal/professional wellness.

BCLAP’s website offers a ton of helpful resources, including self-tests for alcohol and drug use, gambling, work addiction, and depression. There are also more than 20 success stories from people who have been helped by LAP services.

In the video below, listen to the organization’s Executive Director Derek LaCroix, QC share his own story of alcohol addiction and how since 1990, BCLAP has provided peer-based counselling and referrals to BC lawyers dealing with alcohol abuse, chemical dependency, anxiety, depression, career or personal problems. Be sure to also follow the LAPBC blog.

Mental Health and Wellness in the Legal Profession
This free online course “was created as a result of a proactive and dynamic partnership between the Canadian Bar Association, the Mood Disorders Society of Canada and Bell Let’s Talk.”

It’s designed to help Canadian lawyers, judges, and law students better understand mental health and addictions issues: their causes, symptoms, treatments, prevention strategies, and beyond. All information is specifically tailored to the needs of legal professionals and their families.

The course is eligible for 6 CPD Ethics/Professionalism hours in most of Canada.

The CBA notes that “legal professionals face a core stigmatization challenge by perceiving themselves as one of the only members of the profession dealing with their particular issue.” BC lawyers struggling with addiction can be assured that there are, in fact, many others out there who have been in their shoes, and who are here to help.

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