Lawyers experience depression at triple the rate of non-lawyers; and we suffer from higher than average rates of anxiety and substance abuse. Personal suffering itself is worth addressing, yet it also generates a larger professionalism issue: 50% of “serious” disciplinary proceedings are connected with psychiatric illness. A lawyer’s responsible and effective practice can be put at risk when they are facing mental health challenges. The longer we ignore these statistics and the stories behind them, the more the reputability and sustainability of the legal profession is at risk
We envision a profession where law students and legal professionals are able to easily seek help for anxiety, depression, substance abuse, and other mental health challenges, but also where we are all equipped with the skills and tools to take care of ourselves and lead balanced, healthy lives.
We see law faculties and firms as the key places to seed this vision; places where the responsible practice of law requires that employees and students are not overworked, overly stressed, and headed towards burnout or other health crises. We see the potential to create equilibrium between our various roles as citizens, family members, friends, volunteers, and lawyers. We see a profession where people have long and successful careers without having to compromise their well-being.
Healthy Legal Minds was born out of the McGill Law Students Mental Health Committee, which was created to promote a cultural shift towards better mental health at our faculty. The initiative began as a fight for the rights of law students across Quebec to enter the legal profession without discrimination regarding their existing mental health conditions. Learn more here about our work striking down discriminatory questions for admission at the Quebec Bar.
Since then, the Law Students Association allocated a historic $50,000 for that purpose by referendum in 2014. With some of this funding, HLM has conducted the first scientific study into the causes of psychological distress at McGill University Faculty of Law, which we are using to develop solutions that will create a lasting legacy of better mental health at law school and in the legal profession. Learn more about the study, and the actions it inspired. In the summer of 2018 we incorporated as a not-for-profit organization and are expanding our reach and influence beyond McGill.
Shannon Snow - Co-Founder & Managing Director
Shannon is a 4L at McGill Law. Originally from Newfoundland and Labrador, and member of the Southern Inuit community of NunatuKavut, Shannon is an alumna of University of Toronto. Prior to studying law she worked in international affairs and communications consulting. Her inspiration for co-founding and continuing to lead HLM is from a belief that while law school is challenging, it should not be harmful. She is dedicated to empowering individuals to navigate personal challenges, while counseling institutions on best practices to support their students/members/employees.
John George Boynton Payne - Co-founder & operations director
John George is a 3L at McGill Law. Prior to law school, he worked as a senior trade policy officer at Global Affairs Canada and was responsible for negotiating investment obligations in Canada's free trade agreements and bilateral investment treaties. He holds a Bachelors of Public Affairs and Policy Management with a concentration in human rights from Carleton University. As a co-founder of HLM, George is particularly interested in exploring the opportunities for enhancing wellbeing in workplaces and other institutions. In his free time, George feeds his friends, goes on outdoor adventures, and reads dystopian fiction.
Talia Ralph - Communications and Advocacy director
Talia Ralph is a 3L at McGill Law. Also a journalist and editor, she holds an M.A. in Food Systems from NYU and an honours B.S. in Journalism from Emerson College. Talia is a long-time believer in therapy, and has been dedicated to mental health advocacy since she lost two of her family members to suicide. She is proud to use her communications skills to advance HLM/JES's work in law faculties and firms in Montreal and beyond. In her free time, Talia loves to cook for friends and family; hikes, bikes, and practices yoga; and befriends strangers' dogs.
Sarah Grace - co-Director of Peer to Peer Program
Sarah-Grace is an avid learner, constantly taking classes like salsa dancing, pottery, and beginner Inuktitut. Her mainstay extracurricular during law school has been practicing Yang-style Tai Chi. Sarah-Grace’s passion for Healthy Legal Minds stems from her unwavering belief that the legal field can be, and should be, compatible with a healthy body and mind. Currently a second-year law student, Sarah-Grace has a communications background working in Indigenous and northern affairs and a Bachelor’s degree in English Literature at the University of Waterloo.
Gabriella Settino - co-Director of Peer to Peer Program
Gabriella Settino is a 3L at McGill Law. Prior to law school, she completed a BA in psychology at Queen’s University, where she was also involved in mental health advocacy. Through HLM’s work, Gabriella hopes to push the conversation about mental health forward and address the challenges faced by law students and legal professionals everywhere. In her spare time, she enjoys exploring the Montreal food scene, going to concerts, and traveling.
Sara Gold - co-Director of Peer to Peer Program
Sara Gold is a 3L at McGill Law. She currently works for the federal public service and holds an honours B.A. in International Development and Women’s Studies from McGill University. HLM matters to Sara because she believes that more space needs to be created in both law schools and the legal profession to discuss the importance of mental health. She is excited to be working on a team to plan a peer to peer support program at the faculty. When she’s not at school or at work, Sara loves to try out new recipes, cross-country ski on the mountain, spend time with loved ones, and make lists about dream travel destinations.
Sandrine l’Homme - Director of Faculty Relations
Sandrine is a 2L at McGill Law. She chose law after completing an undergraduate degree in International Relations and International Law and focusing on human rights. Though she doesn’t quite know her place in law school yet, her belief in the importance of maintaining a balanced life through her studies and in the practice of law brought her to HLM/JES hoping to raise awareness on mental health in and outside of school. Aside from that, Sandrine enjoys running, good beer and going to bed before 10 p.m.