The resources on this page have been collated in collaboration with the charity Jonathan’s Voice.
Jonathan’s Voice was founded in late 2017 in memory of Jonathan McCartney, a patent attorney who tragically took his own life. The charity’s purpose is to promote mental wellbeing in the workplace, increase understanding and awareness of suicide, reduce the stigma that often surrounds mental health and empower people to speak about it. It seeks to educate and encourage organisations to create the right policies and practices to support employees with their mental health and wellbeing.
At IP Inclusive we believe that mental health support is key to an inclusive working environment, which is why we will be working with Jonathan’s Voice to improve mental health throughout the IP professions. We are extremely grateful for their support, encouragement and guidance.
In June 2020 we established a support network for people who are trained as, or hoping to train as, mental health first aiders in IP sector organisations. This growing network has its own LinkedIn and WhatsApp groups for members to share their ideas and experiences and help one another cope with a challenging but rewarding role. From time to time it also organises events on relevant topics.
You can read more about the network here.
Mental health is often described as the mental and emotional state in which we feel able to cope with the normal pressures of everyday life. Factors both inside and outside work can affect our mental health and it can be helpful to think of it as a spectrum ranging from good to poor, that each of us is constantly moving along depending on our personal circumstances.
Mental ill health is very common – the Department of Health and Social Care suggests that one in four of us will experience it at some point in our lives. And anyone can suffer from its effects, ranging from feeling unmanageably stressed to conditions such as anxiety and depression. A limited number of people experience more severe mental health conditions such as bipolar disorder, schizophrenia or obsessive-compulsive disorder. Some of these conditions can be persistent and may be classed as a disability, whereas others may come and go leading to good days and bad days. With the right support, someone with a diagnosed mental health condition can still enjoy positive mental health.
Let’s talk about this, honestly and openly. It matters.
To help you assess your mental wellbeing, the Scottish Association for Mental Health (SAMH) provides a wellbeing assessment tool on its website. It advises:
“We can all expect to feel under the weather sometime, perhaps pick up a cold or sore throat. But when it comes to the way we feel emotionally, it can be hard to recognise or admit that we’re not feeling good. This wellbeing assessment uses the Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale (WEMWBS) to measure wellbeing. Good mental wellbeing is about feeling good and functioning well. You may find that your mood goes both up and down so use this tool to monitor it over time. However, this is not intended to replace a consultation with a GP if you are struggling.”
Try taking the SAMH assessment yourself: the link is here. There are of course other similar tools available elsewhere online; just take care not to cope with the results on your own, but to talk them through with a trusted friend, adviser or healthcare professional.
There is plenty still to be done to support IP professionals who are suffering from, or at risk of suffering from, mental health problems. But there is also a lot of support already available. We’ve provided some resources below which we hope you will find useful, whether you’re an IP professional or an employer or manager of IP professionals. Many are links to existing sources of information and help.
Please feel free to make use of the resources we have provided, or those available through Jonathan’s Voice, and to contact us with your feedback or to let us know of other materials you would like access to on this page. Nobody needs to suffer alone.
You may also want to check out our news and features page and filter using the tag “mental health”: you’ll find practical tips, information and shared personal experiences, to reassure, guide and possibly even inspire you.
If you’re an IP professional and you’re suffering from mental health problems – or think you may be – please don’t suffer in silence. There are plenty of places you can go for support and guidance. Please, please talk to someone (a friend, colleague or family member, for instance, or an independent helpline) before the problem gets too bad to cope with. If you can, seek help from a GP, counsellor or other healthcare professional.
First up, if you’re just a little bit concerned, or want to make sure you’re looking after your mental health, check out the guidance available on the Jonathan’s Voice website, in particular “Five ways to mental wellbeing” and tips for managing stress at work.
Jonathan’s Voice have also published two excellent guides, in collaboration with the Charlie Waller Memorial Trust, about mental wellbeing for IP professionals. The first is called “Protecting Your Mental Health and wellbeing: A guide for patent and trade mark attorneys”. The second, “Advancing the mental health and wellbeing agenda”, is written specifically for senior leaders, and explains how they can support the mental wellbeing of colleagues across the organisation as well as taking care of their own. The guides are specific to the patent and trade mark professions but no doubt more widely applicable in the IP sector. Do take a look: they’re detailed but not wordy and they’re informed by research. One reader commented on the first guide: “the succinct and precise information without the waffle is very easy to read, digest and implement.” You can download the guides in pdf format or order free printed copies: see here for the first and here for the leaders’ guide. Both are endorsed on the Mental Health at Work website. We’ve also recorded a half-hour video based on the first guide, which you can access here.
If you’re feeling bad and need someone independent and sympathetic to talk to, these organisations offer helplines:
These and other resources are summarised on the “Need Help” page of the Jonathan’s Voice website. If you feel you’re in crisis, need urgent help or are even thinking about suicide, please please get in touch with one of them.
If you need information about mental ill health and its symptoms, or about available treatments and support, you could try the following websites:
Also worth a visit is the website page on “Resilience and wellbeing” created by the Junior Lawyers Division of the Law Society; this links to a wide range of information, guidance and articles likely to be relevant to IP professionals.
Please note, however, that although there are lots of valuable resources available on the internet, it’s worth remembering that not everything you read may be helpful, so try and avoid reading too much alone. If you’re struggling and some of what you read describes how you’ve been feeling, it’s often a good idea to talk it through with someone else (maybe a friend or a relative or a professional that can help such as your GP or a counsellor).
Depending on where you work, your employer may offer an employee assistance programme or occupational health scheme, or access to mental health support via a private health care policy. It’s always worth asking your line manager or an HR colleague. Your organisation may also have a trained “mental health first aider” you could speak to. Mental health first aiders are not, and are no substitute for, mental health professionals – but they can give you pointers to more appropriate sources of help.
If you belong to a membership body such as CIPA, CITMA or the Law Society, they too may provide access to support for their members in times of either physical hardship or mental ill health – again, it’s worth asking.
Some mental health problems can be caused, or exacerbated, by other things going on in our lives, for example relationship problems, physical illness, bereavement, dependants’ needs or financial difficulties. It’s beyond the scope of this website to list the support available in these situations, but do bear in mind that if there is something other than work that’s causing you problems, you may need to seek help with that as well. Again, the best advice is to talk to an independent professional (for instance your GP, or a LawCare adviser) who should be able to help you identify where the problems lie and point you in the direction of appropriate advice and support.
We all need to look out for one another. That’s part of what makes an inclusive profession.
If you’re worried about a colleague’s mental health, it can be hard to know what the right thing is to do for fear of making things worse. But having a conversation doesn’t have to be awkward and being there for someone can make a huge difference to their life.
There is a lot of really good advice about connecting with those who may be struggling with mental health on the Time to Change website. It’s well worth exploring this site, which includes videos and personal stories to guide and inspire you. In particular, take a look at the page in the “Support Someone” section entitled “I want to be there for my colleague”. The Mind website also carries useful information on “Helping someone else”.
The Jonathan’s Voice publication “Protecting Your Mental Health and wellbeing: A guide for patent and trade mark attorneys” also includes a section on what to do if you notice someone else is struggling. The guide was written for patent and trade mark professionals but is no doubt more widely applicable in the IP sector; you can download it, or order free printed copies, here. You can also access our video, based on the guide, here – and perhaps use it as a starting point for discussions in your organisation.
A follow-up guide, written specifically for senior leaders, contains valuable tips on looking after the people you work with, including advice about creating a mentally healthy workplace in order to prevent future problems. Again you can download that guide from the Jonathan’s Voice website, here, or order free printed copies. Both guides are endorsed on the Mental Health at Work website.
Some other general suggestions:
It might be appropriate to signpost your colleague to one of the sources of support under “Help for you” above. For example, your organisation may have a mental health first aider they could talk to. (If you’re a mental health first aider yourself, why not join our MHFAer support network, to share ideas and experiences with others in the same position?)
Of course, it can be a very hard decision for a person to trust someone enough to share their mental health difficulties. Please treat the information they give you with the utmost respect, tact and confidentiality. That said, if you’re really worried that a problem may be serious or urgent, it may be wise to let a manager or HR colleague know to make sure your colleague gets the help they need at the time they need it.
If you employ IP professionals, here are some things you can do to promote and maintain their mental wellbeing. The most important is to encourage a working environment where mental health can be openly discussed, without stigma or judgement or negative impact on your team members’ professional development. Sometimes, just talking about it can vastly improve your workplace culture and employees’ wellbeing.
(By the way, we wouldn’t be IP professionals if we didn’t remind you that the information we provide here is not intended as legal or HR advice.)
A resource you might find useful as a starting point is the Business in the Community Mental Health Toolkit for employers. The aim of this toolkit is to help organisations support the mental health and wellbeing of their employees, and it’s designed with both SMEs and larger companies in mind.
“Mental health first aiders” are individuals in an organisation who have been trained on a course to spot the symptoms of mental health issues, offer initial help and guide a person towards support. The course normally lasts for two days. It doesn’t train people to become therapists but it does teach them to listen, reassure and respond, even in a crisis – and potentially to reach out to someone before a crisis happens.
There are a number of organisations that offer training but Mental Health First Aid England is the only organisation in England permitted to provide mental health first aid instructor training licensed by Mental Health First Aid International.
All instructors deliver the same programme but they may have different styles. Check first that a particular instructor will suit your organisation.
IP Inclusive has a support network for mental health first aiders: see here for more information.
Importantly, please please share your experiences as an employer, including the policies you implement and their effectiveness, with others in the IP Inclusive community. We’d love you to contact us with your ideas and feedback.