There will be an unusual sight at the Windsor, Ont., courthouse on three Fridays this month starting this week: self-represented litigants, lawyers, and court staff lying on massage therapy tables.
It’s all part of a collaboration involving the National Self-represented Litigants Project and the Canadian College of Health Science and Technology that will include 10-minute massages offered by students in the registered massage therapist program. The project is leading the massage offering in a bid to raise awareness of the stress those who represent themselves are under.
Sue Rice, project manager of the Windsor-based project, says the idea came from a volunteer involved in the original research study on the phenomenon of self-represented litigants. After losing her job as a librarian, the volunteer retrained as a massage therapist and, according to Rice, decided: “I want to massage self-reps. They’re stressed out. They need this.”
The goal, says Rice, is to highlight the stress and other health impacts on litigants who in many cases can’t afford a lawyer.
“It comes up so much,” she says, noting the stress can affect other areas of people’s lives, including at work and in how they parent their children. “We really just wanted to highlight the stress.”
As part of the massage service, up to five students will set up on Jan. 9, 23, and 30 on the fifth floor of the Ontario Court of Justice. They’ll also offer massages to lawyers and courthouse staff given the stress they’re under as well and the need to address self-representation as a system-wide phenomenon, according to Rice.
“All the people in the justice system have a voice,” she says, noting it’s important to ensure everyone participates in coming up with solutions to the access to justice issue.
“It’s much easier if we’re all relaxed,” she adds.
The massage service is also a collaboration of the Canadian Mental Health Association.
“This is a wonderful gift for people undergoing the stress of court,” said Marilyn Weller, manager of specialized services for the Canadian Mental Health Association’s Windsor and Essex County branch.
The massage effort is part of the project’s focus on four key themes this year. The first theme is social work, psychology, and health and wellness followed by communications and public messaging, business and financial matters, and legal and conflict resolution issues later this year.