Lady Justice: Back-to-School Blues

September is back-to-school month. Even though I have been in the workforce for more decades than I care to admit, summer still seems like a break, if full time work counts as a break. Maybe it’s because of my litigation practice and that the Courts are for the most part closed over the summer months. Maybe it’s because volunteer boards and committees tend to not meet over the summer months (and probably shouldn’t, given that most people won’t show up to the meetings that are scheduled – hint, hint).

Going on a vacation or even catching some sun in these Northern parts of the planet helps elevate that summer season on the happiness continuum. Those automated email replies, “I am away from the office where there is no reliable Wi-Fi so unless this is urgent…” are more subtle hints that you might as well go hang out at the lake too. If they ever resolve the broadband crisis in Alberta, we will have to find new places to “camp” (hide).

That you could not get a passport without great difficulty and that some backlogged airport security lineups were the worst on the planet (causing many missed flights) could not detract from that gratefulness for most of us being able to travel more freely.

Now everyone is settled back into school mode, and it is in person studies for most. The Pandemic has been tough on everyone but the impact on our youth is some of the most distressing. A news story that caught my attention, was of a survey finding that most Canadian post-secondary students (three-quarters) report experiencing negative mental health in the past year of studies. A quarter reported their mental health as poor. We are “back” to abnormal. How to reverse the trauma of the past couple of years is challenging.

As we experience our second National Day for Truth and Reconciliation (Orange Shirt Day), an indigenous professor (interviewed by CBC) notes it is not sustainable to expect Indigenous peoples to “trot out their trauma” year after year. Most of us cannot even imagine what back to residential school meant. As I write, I still wonder how best to help move the dial. I hope that the Indigenous Cultural Competency education my Law Society requires me to complete forthwith further enlightens me on tangible action our profession can take. I will let you know.

Our legal profession has a FREE Well-Being in Practice Summit this upcoming week. We pay exorbitant insurance rates and when you examine the root causes of professional negligence, mental health issues top the charts, followed closely by my dog ate your file (maybe the school analogies have gone too far). Chicken and egg on how much the Pandemic created mental health issues and how much it was some sort of tipping point that forced us to recognize them and realize we have to do something.

As we move into Oktoberfest season, I wish everyone a move from the back-to-school blues to a balanced routine that allows you to have energy to reach out to your fellow students, co-workers and persons on the street with mindfulness and kindness. Cheerfulness and cheers to you.

Donna Purcell, K.C., (aka Lady Justice) is a Central Alberta lawyer and Chief Innovation Officer with Donna Purcell QC Law. If you have legal questions, contact dpurcell@dpqclaw.com.

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