Today, October 10, World Mental Health Day is celebrated. Like clockwork, I’m reminded on how little to nothing has improved with the IBP in terms of promoting mental wellness and well-being among Filipino lawyers. It seems the masochist perspective of the legal profession remains to be the norm. After all, the law school experience is the biggest contributor of the do-or-die, sink-or-swim, shape-up or ship-out, narrative reinforced by a few law professors who chooses fear as the preferred method of teaching. (Curiously, it is different with the law firm experience where many, but not all, partners are mindful on the importance of wellbeing.)
One look at the American Bar Association’s website and you’ll easily notice that they prioritize mental health among the many programs and resources they have for their members. On the other hand, one look at the Integrated Bar of the Philippine’s website and you’ll see it barren of any content or resources to help its members, who it might be emphasized are its primary stakeholders (read also as its primary source of funding), on mental health and wellbeing.
There seems to be a denial on the existence of the problem. Or, is it more of a taboo as one senior lawyer told me when I was still a younger lawyer.
Through the years of practice, I have heard of stories from lawyers I meet from all walks of life of tidbits, usual in hush tones, of colleagues who we’ve lost to the black dog. Notably, it is said a lawyer shot herself after booking a stay in a hotel in Ortigas. Then, there’s the case of a Government lawyer in the province who jumped from a building to oblivion. And of course, the well-documented case of a judge with stellar academic background having graduated from a reputable law school and becoming a bar topnotcher but later on claimed to have psychic powers and the ability to communicate with dwarves.
Notwithstanding, and I hope my assessment is true. I think it is generational.
The younger lawyers are aware. They know the value and importance of mental health. Some even have made it as their personal advocacy.
Thus, this is probably a case of changing of the guards. The self-aware young blood, once given the opportunity to chart the future of the legal profession, will consider mental health as crucial in developing the navigation map to a better community of lawyers.