For lawyers facing mental health or addiction issues, hearing from other professionals who have been in a similar situation can prove to be one of the most important sources of support, Toronto personal injury lawyer Darryl Singer tells CBC World this Weekend.
Although Singer, principal of Singer Barristers Professional Corporation, is now a typical busy lawyer and father, eight years ago, says CBC, he was in the throes of an oxycontin addiction.
Singer tells the program that he not only had difficulty being there for his family at the time, but also his clients.
“I couldn’t respond to phone calls. I couldn’t respond to emails. And then when you don’t respond to your clients, and they go to the Law Society and they say ‘oh my god, I called my lawyer 16 times, and he hasn’t returned my call, and gone to his office and he’s not there, and I’ve sent him 17 emails and he doesn’t respond and I mailed him a registered letter and he didn’t pick it up at the post office,” he says.
As CBC explains, Singer took a year off to get clean, but getting to that point was tough, as lawyers are used to fixing other people’s problems rather than asking for help.
“People are coming to you with the most significant issues in their life, and handing them to you and saying ‘these are my problems, I am trusting you to deal with them,’” he says.
Ultimately, a former lawyer-turned-social worker who counsels those in the legal profession helped Singer get his life back on track.
Indeed, Singer points to peer-to-peer support as one of the most important programs for lawyers in this situation.
“That was the greatest thing, was hearing I’m not alone, and by the way, ‘here’s two people who are practising lawyers who are successful and who are going to help you, because they’ve also been there’.”
As CBC notes, Singer is still part of the peer support program in Ontario, but now he is the one providing support to other lawyers.