Walks for Wellness—Assist’s signature annual event—was about more than uniting lawyers as a community to raise awareness about lawyer mental health. It is grounded in the fact that walking is an excellent strategy both for wellness and well-being.You may be wondering why I referred to both wellness and well-being because many of use the terms interchangeably. However, there is an important distinction: wellness generally refers to physical health while well-being also encompasses wholeness and positive mental health. Assist is really a well-being organization. Our updated mission is to enhance the immediate and long-term well-being of Alberta lawyers, articling and law students, and their dependent families through confidential and non-judgmental psychological assistance, peer support, education, and community. There are at least ten positive physical impacts from walking:
- It burns calories
- It boosts your metabolism
- It strengthens your legs
- It helps your digestive processes
- It causes a release in tension
- You get vitamin D from walking outside on a sunny day
- It improves your mental clarity
- It helps you sleep more soundly
- It strengthens your heart
- It causes your body to produce endorphins, promoting a positive mood.
(Ten Things That Happen to Your Body When You Walk )
And do you know what can make walking even better? Walking with a walking buddy. Benefits of walking with a buddy include:
- Keeping you accountable to walk even when you don’t feel like it
- You are more likely to laugh and smile
- Brisk conversation (while maintaining physical distancing) can help you keep to a brisk pace
- You may walk further and faster out of an innate sense of competition
- Your buddy can provide support to you if you want to talk about challenges in your life
- You are more likely to come up with imaginative routes rather than doing the same walk each time.(See
- Having a Walking Partner Can Make All the Difference)
Assist is championing the Centre for Suicide Prevention’s Buddy Up Campaign to prevent suicide in men, but it is an excellent resource for everyone. Buddy Up encourages us to engage in conversations with our buddies about how they are really doing and providing support if they are struggling. Research on which Buddy Up is based indicates that men are more comfortable talking about emotion-laden issues if they don’t have to make eye contact with the person they are talking with. This is why the Buddy Up resources include a logoed car air freshener—sometimes it is easier to have conversations when you are looking straight ahead, like sitting in a car.
As noted above, some people will find that they can talk more readily when they are walking, an activity where you make occasional eye contact with your walking buddy but are generally looking forward to make sure that you don’t trip on an uneven surface or miss a turnoff.
This led me to think about a new way of holding our Walks for Wellness this year. We can’t gather en masse at the courthouse— the virus, along with the regulatory and insurance climates, makes this impossible—but it is still important for us to get out and walk and show awareness of, and support for, our well-being.
This year, Assist is inviting the Alberta legal community to invite a buddy (or someone from within your bubble, or your workplace if you are back to your offices) to walk with you at noon on Thursday, September 10th –World Suicide Prevention Day--and send photos of their Walks to us to raise your awareness about lawyer mental health and suicide prevention. We all know that lawyers have significantly higher rates of mental health and substance use issues than the general population. We also have a high suicide rate. According to the 2016 American Bar Association lawyer survey (over 12,000 lawyers participated), 11% of lawyer participants reported having experienced suicidal ideation. Thankfully, most did not act on these impulses and our world is a much better place because of a change of heart or a helpful intervention by a caring person. An emerging body of research indicates that sharing stories of resilience can reduce suicide rates. This is called the Papageno Effect. When we walk together in small groups on September 10th, we can share our resilience. We always take a photo of the Walkers in each city which are posted on our website (our new website is launching next week!). We can’t do our usual group photo, so we are asking you to send in a picture of you and your buddy(ies), something special that you saw or that represents resilience.Last year, our Walkers in Fort McMurray sent in a spectacular photo that is gracing the cover page of our 2019 Annual Report. We all know that Fort Mac is a community known for its great resilience and spirit. Look at the dark clouds massing behind the stalwart Walkers and their response to the impending storm—they are laughing in the face of adversity and kicking up their heels!
This is resilience!
A committee of Assist volunteers will choose a photo that most represents the spirit of Assist to grace the cover of our 2020 Annual Report, with credit to the successful photographer.
We think of Assist as the little organization that could. We operate on a shoestring budget, delivering services to lawyers, articling students and law students from cities to hamlets, north to south and east to west. When someone calls the Assist office (1-877-737-5508) and says they have a problem, we look at how we can help, and if we can’t, how we can connect them with an organization that can.
Please Buddy Up and Walk for Wellness in the legal profession on September 10th, share your resilience and promote suicide prevention. We will communicate details like potential walk routes for those who would like to walk from a central location, and we have promotional materials about the Centre for Suicide Prevention’s Buddy Up campaign that we will send to each Alberta centre where lawyers and students say they will Buddy Up and Walk together on September 10th.
See you (virtually) then,