Webinar: mental wellbeing in the legal profession

The Leeds Law Society diversity and inclusion conference, in partnership with the Law Society of England and Wales, took place in September 2020 and explored several topics within diversity and inclusion. This webinar is focused on mental health and wellbeing.

Speakers

  • Shanika Varga, director of Leeds Law Society and solicitor at Stowe Family Law
  • Professor Richard Collier of Newcastle University
  • Debbie Holmes from Weightmans LLP
  • Sarah Alonge from the Law Society

Shanika Varga shares her personal experience of deteriorating mental health whilst working. She talks us through the impact on both her professional and personal life, highlighting the importance of meaningful support from employers.

Professor Richard Collier discusses recent research developments around wellbeing in the legal profession, as well as the implications of COVID-19.

The pandemic has had a significant effect on our mental health, and it’s valuable we understand why this has happened and how to manage it.

Debbie Holmes explains what the firm is doing to help the mental wellbeing of its employees, as well as offering top tips for other organisations within the legal sector.

Sarah Alonge explains how you can support mental health in the workplace through three key areas:

  • support
  • education and training
  • culture

Best practice tips for mental health and wellbeing in the workplace

Internal resources and recognition of mental health awareness initiatives

Guidance and signposting resources and advice should be accessible, visible and available to all staff on internal intranet pages.

Resources could include:

  • tips for improving mental health and wellbeing
  • contact information for external organisations offering support
  • who to contact internally if someone is struggling

Organisations should also be proactive in key mental health awareness days and initiatives as this is often the easiest way to engage staff and begin the conversation in the workplace. For example:

  • time to talk day
  • mental health awareness week
  • world mental health day
  • world suicide prevention day

Senior buy-in

For positive culture changes to take root, it’s vital that leadership lead by example and demonstrate a commitment not only to normalising speaking openly about mental health, but also allowing staff to prioritise their wellbeing at work.

As mentioned above, it is necessary to have senior staff involved or even leading on internal wellbeing initiatives such as ‘time to talk day’.

Mental health first-aiders

Similarly to first-aid training for physical injuries, mental health first-aid training equips people to assist and support those that are suffering with their mental health.

It is important that mental health first aiders exist across all areas of an organisation and in all levels of seniority.

Staff should feel able to talk to and seek support from someone on their level, and from their team or division. They should also be able to see the organisation’s dedication to mental health and wellbeing.

Monitoring

Including mental health and wellbeing questions in your staff survey will help you to track how your people are doing at work, as well as the impact of your mental health strategy if you have one.

Being able to monitor progress helps to indicate if what you are doing is working or needs to be amended.

The pandemic, amongst other events, has taught us that it is important not to be rigid with our approach to mental health and wellbeing.

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