Beth Beattie: Why we need leaders in our community to publicly disclose their mental illnesses, September 24, 2019

In 2002, Beth Beattie was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. The stereotype of people living with bipolar disorder is that they are inherently unstable and unreliable. Beth did not want to be thought of in those terms as a lawyer. As a result of stigma, both societal and self-imposed, she did not share her story outside her family and closest friends for 14 years.

Beth was not alone in her seclusion. The statistics on the number of mentally ill people in Canada is astonishing. One in five Canadians are living with mental illness right now. 50% of people will experience a mental health crisis by the time they are 40. Only one-third of those people seek help for their mental health conditions.

In 2017 Beth made the decision to disclose her illness to colleagues. After receiving considerable support at work, she quickly began speaking and writing on the topic of living and working with mental illness. Beth has made presentations to thousands of lawyers in the public and private sectors. She has also made presentations to schools, corporations and at various levels of the Ontario government as well as the British Columbia Prosecution Service.

Through all of the work she has done, Beth has seen the necessity of leaders in our community, be them professionals, senior executives, teachers, religious leaders, etc. disclosing their mental illnesses. It is through role models speaking out that other people with mental illness will be motivated to reach out and get the help they need. When isolation ends, stigma is reduced.
Beth was called to the bar in 1994. After being a litigator at Fasken Campbell Godfrey for eight years she joined the public sector. She is currently senior counsel at the Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General Civil Law Division, Ministry of Health Branch. Beth has a broad-based litigation practice and has expertise in the areas of Coroner’s inquests, human rights, forensic and civil mental health, OHIP eligibility and long-term care home compliance. Beth has a Master of Laws from Osgoode Hall Law School in alternative dispute resolution.

Since January 2018 Beth has been a friend of the Bell Let’s Talk campaign. Her story has been featured on television, radio, print media and billboards across the country.

Beth is a founding member of the Mental Health Illuminati, a group of lawyers with lived mental health experience, which provides programming in the Ministry of the Attorney General and beyond. 

Beth is on a mission to help improve the lives of those living with mental illness as well those who care for them.

Media Links
Lexpert article, August 28, 2019 “Hypocrite, Heretic or Heroine? Why I Believe Senior Lawyers Should Disclose Their Mental Illness at Work”

Podcast “Shaking Off the Mental Health Stigma” March 26, 2019, interview with Dr. Julie Macfarlane

Bell Let’s Talk Page 2018-2019

CBC Metro Morning Radio, June 21, 2018, interview with Matt Galloway (No longer available at CBC Radio)

CTV primetime special aired January 31, 2018, “In Their Own Words”

Globe and Mail article dated August 29, 2017 “I’m Finally Out of the Mental Health Closet and Have Never Felt So Free”