Osler News

Striving towards wellness through difficult times – Osler Mental Health Awareness Week guest speaker Orlando Da Silva

May 16, 2018 3 MIN READ

As part of Osler’s Mental Health Awareness week, which coincided with the Canadian Mental Health Association’s annual campaign, the firm welcomed guest speaker Orlando Da Silva, who shared his inspiring story of resilience and striving for mental wellness. During his presentation, Orlando discussed issues surrounding mental health in Canada and his advocacy work in promoting its awareness in the legal industry. He also provided self-help tools anyone can use to help maintain well-being as well as signs to watch out for regarding those who may need help.

The talk highlighted Osler’s work to create a healthy and supportive culture within the firm, which, as Orlando pointed out, is an important part of creating change when it comes to embracing the discussion around mental health in the workplace. As Orlando explained, the discussion around mental health is one that’s needed – one in five Canadians will experience a diagnosed mental illness at some point in their lifetime.    

One of the reasons why Orlando does his talks is to help fight stigma and normalize the discussion around mental health. The stigma is insidious and powerful, Orlando stated, and is often what keeps people quiet and prevents them from getting the support they need. He shared that, according to a Canadian Medical Association survey, 49% of respondents said they would not socialize with a friend who admitted that they suffered from a serious mental illness. And, according to the CMHA, some three million people in the country are currently suffering from major depression – and two out of three of them will suffer in silence and tell no one at all, fearing judgment and rejection.

“The worrisome takeaway … is that you may never know if someone you know, love, work with, are friendly with … [is] suffering right now with depression, especially the highest functioning amongst us. For the best and the brightest amongst us, the last thing that goes is work,” said Orlando, who added that Dr. Jane Storrie, past president of the Ontario Psychological Association, once told him that “high-functioning professionals, and high-functioning people generally, are great at functioning when [they are] not coping.”

Orlando discussed the importance of having a workplace environment that embraces wellness, which can help to create a place where “mental health can be discussed without ridicule, scorn, judgment or repercussion.” “It just cannot be a career limiting move anymore to say that you need help,” he said.

He also provided tips and tools that individuals can use to manage and promote mental health, including using a 10-point scale to monitor your mood, keeping a journal, going for walks, developing a list of everything that makes you proud of yourself, and telling someone how you are feeling.

“I want you to give compassion to yourself and to your coworkers and friends. I want management to develop a deep understanding of the complexity of the issues mental illness raises, and [realize] the inherent value and the talent of those who may be suffering,” said Orlando.

Orlando is counsel in the Indigenous Litigation Team of the Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General. From 2014-2015, he served as the president of the Ontario Bar Association, during which he worked to make wellness in the legal profession a priority. Orlando has been invited to speak across Canada about wellness issues and has made many contributions to the legal profession and the community at large, including founding award-winning workplace wellness support tools. 

In recognition of his many contributions, Orlando has been awarded the Law Society Medal, the OBA Distinguished Service Award, the Tom Marshall Award of Excellence for Public Sector Lawyers, and the CAMH Transforming Lives Award. In 2015, Orlando was named one of the 25 Most Influential Lawyers in Canada by Canadian Lawyer Magazine.

Osler’s Mental Health Awareness Week included a series of events designed to support the health and wellness of Osler staff and lawyers.