THE CHANGING FACE OF MENTAL HEALTH IN LAW FIRMS
Conversations around mental health are growing in momentum. Organisations working to increase awareness of mental health issues across the workforce is up from 31 per cent in 2016 to 51 per cent in 2018, and set to grow further in 2019.
Whilst steps have been taken by the legal sector to improve their reputation for mental health support, law firms are often seen as traditional in their principles, and a seemingly unsupportive culture can often discourage people from joining the industry.
We’ve put together a short blog highlighting the promising steps being taken by firms all over the South East, and why the conversation around mental health in the legal profession is changing.
Mental Health First Aid training
Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) is a recently recognised training course that teaches people how to identify, understand and help someone who may be experiencing a mental health issue. MHFA will teach the nominated person to listen, reassure and respond, even in a crisis – and even potentially stop a crisis from happening.
Slaughter and May were one of the first firms to introduce the scheme in 2017, but others have now followed suit, with many firms introducing a variety of mental health initiatives, encouraging the destigmatising of it.
An incredibly positive step allowing for conversations to be started amongst colleagues.
LawCare is a charity, set up to promote and support good mental health and wellbeing in the legal community. It offers a staffed helpline, a range of useful resources and teaching materials and in-house training if needed.
The charity encourages firms to work alongside them to improve understanding and empathy to those with mental health issues and work with HR and L&D departments to reduce the stigma.
Their plethora of materials offers a great starting place for anyone who wants to learn more about dealing with or supporting mental health problems in the workplace.
It is not unknown that the NHS struggle to fulfil mental health appointments quickly, with some patients waiting up to 6 months in some parts of the country for their referrals for talking therapies.
A big benefit being rolled out across law firms is free or subsidised access to “virtual” GPs, through an app on a mobile or a website on a desktop. It allows a staff member to have an initial appointment, get the necessary referrals and the doctor may even be able to make a diagnosis and give prescriptions.
Needless to say, a sooner appointment eases a lot of worries, and investment from the firm in this sort of benefit shows staff members that the firm cares for their wellbeing.
The Legal Professions Wellbeing Taskforce
Founded in 2016 and initiated by the Law Society in partnership with other legal organisations to promote mental health best practice and support in the legal sector; Its aim is to create a culture of good mental health for City workers, and to share best practices and increase mental health understanding.
As the taskforce involves many senior workers across a selection of professions, it promotes a positive culture, cultivating change from the top.
It is heartening to see such positive steps being taken across the industry since 2016. However, with LawCare still receiving their highest volumes of calls from concerned legal professionals and ongoing issues around changing an established culture that doesn’t look as favourably on illnesses you cannot see, there is still work to be done.
We look forward to further improvement and inclusion across the industry in time for 2020's #TimeToTalk day.
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