Is jury duty a mental health hazard?

Canadians grumble but mostly show up to complete their civic duty. (Photo: iStock)
Canadians grumble but mostly show up to complete their civic duty. (Photo: iStock)

Canadians are good at grumbling about the weather, taxes and having to attend jury duty. Most of us dread getting the call or letter telling us to appear at court on a certain day. We try to be creative with reasons to not have to serve but we mostly show up for our civic duty.

If you are selected to sit on a jury, it could even be for a murder trial, as Mark Farrant of Toronto discovered when he spent five months at the trial of man who was convicted of murdering his girlfriend in 2014.

Due to the extremely graphic testimony and isolation, Farrant was later diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. In an interview with The Canadian Press, Farrant stated “one of the burdens of being a juror is the isolation you have” and that “a juror is the best judge of their own mental health and their own state. With some jurors it may take longer if they're feeling negative impacts.”

When his jury duty was over, Farrant believed he would receive a “debrief” from the court and access to counsellors to help him with his return to daily life. None of that happened and he ended up mostly suffering in silence.

At the time of his jury duty, there were no coping resources for Farrant to access but that has changed with the Ontario government’s launch of a free counselling service for jurors this past January. The service is available to all jurors at the end of a trial or coroner’s inquest.
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