This week (14th – 20th May) is Mental Health Awareness week.

Mental health issues in the legal profession

It is concerning to see the impact of mental health issues amongst younger lawyers. LawCare (a superb charity that supports and promotes good mental health and wellbeing in the legal community) flagged up the Law Society’s Junior Lawyer Division’s recent mental health report. The report found that amongst junior lawyers (5 years or less PQE) “82% of respondents to the JLD survey reported either regularly or occasionally feeling stressed in the previous month with 26% of those individuals being severely or extremely stressed.”  LawCare state that in 2017, 45% of their calls for support came from Junior Lawyers. The full Junior Lawyer Division report can be found here: http://communities.lawsociety.org.uk/Uploads/p/d/i/jld-resilience-and-wellbeing-survey-report-2018.pdf.

While this detailed report on the mental health of the legal profession did not include a study on more senior lawyers, many reports debunk the myth that mental health issues are most prevalent in the “millennial” generation (broadly, those born between the early 1980s and the mid-1990s) to which most junior lawyers belong. A recent report Ipsos MORI sets out that there is very little difference in the prevalence of mental health issues amongst the different generations in the UK including “Generation X” (those born from the early 1960s to the early 1980s) and “the Baby Boomers” (those born between the mid-1940s to early 1960s) https://www.ipsos.com/sites/default/files/2017-05/ipsos-mori-millennial-myths-realities-full-report.pdf.

Mental Health Awareness at Capsticks

In such circumstances, it is deeply reassuring to see that in many law firms, mental health and the harm it can cause is being taken seriously and practices to promote good mental health wellbeing are being encouraged. At Capsticks, there is a week of activities and initiatives to raise awareness of mental health and the services that are available to us as employees, including the Firm’s Employee Assistance Programme, which offers 24/7 support to staff if they need it. In addition, the firm have organised talks from Richard Martin (a mental health and wellness consultant) and a nutrition consultant from Nuffield Health, as well as more light-hearted ideas, including the handing out of firm-wide stress balls!

Perhaps most crucially, people from across the firm are being supported to share their own experiences of dealing with mental health issues and of their friends or family that have suffered. For example, my colleague John Hatton, a solicitor in our Birmingham office, shared his raw and moving story about how he dealt with the bereavement of his best friend who died by suicide (http://itsfrankslife.blogspot.co.uk/2015/05/everyone-has-private-battle-and-some.html and http://itsfrankslife.blogspot.co.uk/2018/05/).

I am a firm believer that the brave sharing by individuals of their stories and coping strategies for their own mental health helps break down any remaining stigma that exists around mental health issues. It also helps to normalise discussions about mental health more generally in the workplace.