Monday 10 October is World Mental Health Day, which has been observed annually across the globe since 1992, and promotes mental health education, awareness and advocacy.
LawCare, which is funded by the Law Society, supports mental health and wellbeing throughout the legal community. World Mental Health Day provides us with the perfect platform from which to raise awareness of the importance of wellbeing and the impact it has on mental health.
What do we mean by wellbeing?
It means different things to different people but it’s about how we feel, how we think, our relationships, and how we find meaning and purpose in our lives. Research has shown that about 40 per cent of our wellbeing is influenced by our choices and attitudes - how we approach relationships, our values and our sense of purpose. Understanding this means we can do something positive about influencing our wellbeing.
There are five steps we can take to improve our wellbeing:
• Connect - with the people around us, our family, friends, colleagues
• Be active - find the time for exercise
• Keep learning - new skills can boost confidence
• Give to others - just a simple kind word to someone can improve your wellbeing
• Be mindful - be more aware of the present moment, including your feelings and thoughts, your body and the world around you
In a professional context, wellbeing matters because it brings a number of benefits - greater self-esteem, optimism, resilience, vitality, self-determination, positive relationships with colleagues, better physical and mental health, greater motivation, greater creativity, and more productive work. Financially, it makes sense for companies to take the wellbeing of their employees seriously – improvements in this area lead to a reduction in sick days and increases staff retention.
A stressful profession
But what is it about the culture and practice of law that can compromise wellbeing? It’s not that solicitors are genetically predisposed to poor wellbeing; it’s about the culture of law, legal education and professional practice. The culture is one known for poor work/life balance, long hours, a competitive environment, and the fear of failure. We also know that driven and perfectionist personalities can be drawn to law.
Solicitors are expected to cope with the demands of the job, and not coping can be seen as a sign of weakness: they can find it difficult to acknowledge that they may need support.
This is where LawCare comes in: our staff and volunteers have experience in the law, and understand the legal environment.
Our key service is the helpline. It is free, independent and completely confidential, 365 days a year. We also provide over 20 factsheets, free to download on our website, on topics such as stress, anxiety and depression.
Legal Professions Wellbeing Taskforce
A cross-profession taskforce, initiated by the Law Society and driven by LawCare, has been established to promote and support good mental health and wellbeing across the legal community. It brings together, for the first time, representatives from legal professional and educational establishments, those with legal expertise and knowledge of the sector.
Lighting the way
The law is a rewarding and stimulating career. LawCare wants to ensure that the working culture enables solicitors to have fulfilling and healthy professional lives where wellbeing is valued. We strive for a legal community that talks openly about mental health so that these issues come out of the shadows.
LawCare is proud to join the thousands of supporters worldwide who observe World Mental Health Day, designed to draw attention to mental health and how it affects people’s lives.
Contact the helpline on 0800 279 6888 or visit www.lawcare.org.uk
Blog: LawCare – a helping hand
Blog: Stress and the legal profession
Read our press release about the wellbeing taskforce