Orlando Da Silva
After being appointed president of the Ontario Bar Association (OBA), Orlando Da Silva thought he could finally be open about his lifelong battle with depression, anxiety and a suicide attempt. Instead, he was told to keep it a secret. People cautioned that he would be treated differently, that he would not get the high profile cases he was used to getting and that he would lose friends.
He told his story anyway. And every time he's done so, he's reminded of the lives he's transformed — and saved.
Orlando grew up in a household dominated by abuse, alcoholism, neglect, violence and poverty, which led to his depression, anxiety and a suicide attempt. Despite this traumatic upbringing, a sense of purpose helped him focus and work hard, and he quickly rose within one of Canada's largest law firms where he became a partner. Orlando told no one of his life long struggle with depression, not even his wife or family.
In 2007, he was selected by the federal Liberal party to run as a candidate in the next general election in the riding of Kitchener-Conestoga. On December 18, 2008, just two months after losing the election, Orlando attempted suicide. Hospitalized during the Christmas holidays, he told no one the real reason he was away – he was too afraid of the stigma surrounding mental illness. He had no visitors. He received no get well cards.
Within six months, Orlando returned to work and resumed a full work load. He managed his illness by staying busy and being intuitive about his condition and the triggers that lead to relapse.
In 2014, Orlando was appointed president of the OBA. To make his term meaningful, he spoke for the first time to some of his family and closest friends about his depression and whether he ought to disclose it publicly. He hoped to raise awareness of the prevalence of mental illness, especially among high-functioning professionals, and ultimately chip away at the stigma of mental illness.
His story attracted the attention of the media and the legal community. He founded the OBA's "Opening Remarks" Wellness Program for Lawyers, which received thousands of registrants. Orlando was named one of Canada's "Top 25 Most Influential Lawyers" by Canadian Lawyer Magazine. He was also named a Top Newsmaker by Law Times (2014), was selected as a finalist by CBC Radio Metro Morning for "Torontonian of the Year," and the Law Society of Upper Canada awarded him the legal profession's highest honour, the Law Society Medal.