It’s time to topple the mental-health stigma once and for all

On her popular TikTok account, Henna Choi talks openly about what it’s like to practise law with depression
On her popular TikTok account, Henna Choi talks openly about what it’s like to practise law with depression

As a teenager, Henna Choi started to struggle with depression. In law school, her symptoms became particularly intense: she had a hard time getting out of bed and felt so much dread that she could hardly function. But with $100,000 worth of student debt, she couldn’t afford to take a break. 

By 2020, she had managed to graduate, article and land as an associate at Karoly Law, a personal-injury and family-law firm in Toronto. “I am good at my job,” says the 28-year-old. “I’m very there for other people.” At the same time, she continues to live with depression. 

In February, Choi started to document her daily life on TikTok. Over the past year, she’s posted videos in which she’s clearly doing well: taking her dog for a walk, going to the batting cage with her brother and father, hiking with friends. In other videos, by contrast, she might talk about having anxiety attacks until 3 a.m. or how she lacked the energy to brush her teeth in the morning. “I think people were shocked,” she says, “to see that a lawyer, who they assume is always put together, would have such mornings and be so open about it.” 

That candour has clearly struck a chord. Today, nearly half a million users follow her account. 

Her goal with the videos is, in part, to have a creative outlet to talk about mental health. But she also wants to set an example. “As a lawyer myself, just being open and sharing my experiences, I hope that it’ll encourage others to do the same,” says Choi, who’s currently on leave from her role at Karoly Law, taking the time to focus on her mental health. If more lawyers speak out on this topic, that will help stamp out the stigma that causes so many people to suffer in silence. 

Choi has been happy to see how many law firms now publish educational resources on mental health. But she’d also like firms to emphasize the importance of taking sick days when necessary, including for mental-health reasons. “It would help a lot of new hires,” she says, by sending a message “that their mental health is important.” 

This story is from our Fall 2022 issue.

Illustration by Jacqui Oakley