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MindsMatter Action: Gowling WLG

With October featuring Mental Illness Awareness Week, World Mental Health Day and Canada’s Healthy Workplace Month, better workplace mental health is top of mind for many organizations. CivicAction reached out to organizations to see how they’re taking action. Read what Gowling WLG is doing below. 

At Gowling WLG, the mental health journey has been a long yet worthwhile one. As an international law firm with more than 700 legal professionals and 1,200 support staff in Canada alone, Gowling WLG knows that many of its people are living through their own mental health challenges on a daily basis.

Gowling WLG is also well aware of the fact that members of the legal profession are particularly prone to mental health and substance abuse issues:  recent studies have shown that 28% of all lawyers have depression as compared to 8% of the general population.

Armed with troubling statistics like these, Gowling WLG has slowly but surely been taking the necessary steps to ensure that its people have the right tools and support to overcome their mental health struggles.

It has not been easy, but it has been rewarding. Here is a brief timeline of the journey.

2015-2016

Gowling WLG hosted a number of speakers, such as then-Ontario Bar Association president Orlando Da Silva, who shared stories of their personal battles with mental health issues such as depression. Firm leaders attended presentations on mental health in the workplace, hearing from experts like Dr. David Goldbloom, Senior Medical Advisor at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health and former Chair of the Board of the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC).

Impact: These events raised awareness of mental health issues, particularly within the legal profession, and stimulated Gowling WLG’s determination to introduce programs to normalize discussions about mental health, reduce stigma and improve the mental health and well-being of all members of Gowling WLG.

2016

Gowling WLG was the first large Canadian law firm to introduce Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) training, an MHCC-accredited educational and training program, for all its people in leadership and management positions. Three years later, Gowling WLG now has the highest number of certified MHFA providers in North America.

Impact: Since its introduction, over 150 Gowling WLG members have received MHFA training. The program has helped shift Gowling WLG’s culture and increase its openness to addressing mental health issues within the organization.

2017

On October 10, 2017 – World Mental Health Day – Gowling WLG released its own internal “This is Me” video in which individuals from across Gowling WLG’s Canadian offices shared their personal mental health journeys.

Impact: The courage of these individuals to share their stories reflected the growing acceptance, and recognized the importance, of having a dialogue about mental health within the organization.

2018

On October 10, 2018 – World Mental Health Day – Gowling WLG launched its “Our People First: Mental Health Strategy.” The strategy is a long-term, three-pronged commitment to developing and providing programs and resources to promote mental health and overall well-being, and to support Gowling WLG members and their families dealing with mental health challenges. To review an outline of the strategy, please click here. The strategy is based on three pillars:

  • Awareness

  • Resilience

  • Empowerment

Alongside the launch of the strategy, Gowling WLG also announced that the amount and scope of insurance coverage for psychological counselling had been significantly increased for all employees.

Impact: “Our People First:  Mental Health Strategy” provides the framework for Gowling WLG’s priorities to help create a culture that emphasizes the mental health and well-being of its members, including access to resources and tools to help everyone build resilience and enhance their own mental health.

The strategy recognizes that there is a compelling business case for ensuring good mental health through improved productivity, increased engagement, and better recruitment and retention. More importantly, the strategy reflects Gowling WLG’s belief that supporting mental health is the right thing to do.

With the increase in insurance coverage, Gowling WLG members and their families now have access to a broader group of qualified, affordable mental health treatment options.

2019

On Bell Let’s Talk Day, Gowling WLG launched “Gowling WLG Commits,” a campaign to give everyone an opportunity to commit to seven powerful commitment statements focused on:

  • Respect for others

  • Fostering a safe environment

  • Recognizing the importance of listening to each other

  • Offering support where needed

  • Facilitating return to work for those who need to take time off

The campaign also encouraged people to craft their own personal commitment statements.

Impact: The response to the Gowling WLG Commits campaign far exceeded expectations, reinforcing how important mental health issues are to members of the firm. In addition, coordinating the campaign with Gowling WLG’s external social media channels generated approximately 18,500 views, furthering Gowling WLG’s objective to be a leader in making mental health a priority in the legal profession and throughout the wider business community.

Next Steps

Ultimately, Gowling WLG’s goals are to foster a work environment where discussions about mental health are normalized and encouraged, and where everyone feels safe, comfortable and supported. Gowling WLG is striving to create a culture that helps build the resilience and enhances the well-being of every single person at the firm.

Guided by “Our People First:  Mental Health Strategy”, Gowling WLG is confident that its ongoing initiatives and programs will continue to propel it forward and help it achieve these objectives.

Gowling WLG’s journey is far from over, but it is making real progress at every step.

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