*** Don’t forget our 14 May Mental Health Awareness Week webinar ***
Mental Health Awareness Week is from 13 to 19 May 2019. As it approaches, we’re publishing a series of three articles from the charity LawCare. Our first explains why the charity exists and how it can help people in the legal sector.
LawCare’s support is available to people in all branches of the law, including IP professionals. You can access a whole wealth of useful resources that it has compiled for Mental Health Awareness Week here.
Overwhelmed? Mind racing? Can’t sleep? Life in the law can be challenging and sometimes things can get on top of you. Talk to us – we’ve been there.
Law is by nature competitive and adversarial and the heavy workload begins when studying or training to be a lawyer. There are high levels of negative emotions within law: the work is often about winning or losing, requiring legal professionals to be critical, judgemental, combative and aggressive. You are required to think pessimistically, looking for potential problems and worse-case scenarios. In addition many lawyers are perfectionists who fear failure and making mistakes. All of this can significantly affect mental health and wellbeing.
LawCare is an independent charity offering emotional support to legal professionals in the UK and Ireland through our helpline, peer support network, website, and training and talks to legal organisations. We’ve been supporting lawyers for 21 years. We raise awareness of wellbeing issues across the legal community and tackle stigma surrounding mental health.
Our free and confidential helpline is a safe place to talk without judgement, with calls answered by trained staff and volunteers who have first-hand experience of working in the law. Last year we responded to over 900 calls.
As well our helpline, LawCare offers one-to-one peer support. We have a network of Peer Supporters, people who work in the legal profession who may have been through difficult times themselves and can offer one-to-one support, friendship and mentoring to helpline callers referred to them.
We have visited hundreds of legal workplaces over the years and we have listened to thousands of legal professionals tell us about the stress, anxiety and depression they are experiencing, which is often caused or exacerbated by a difficult working environment. Lack of support or supervision, an overly critical manager, being undermined after a career break, an unreasonably heavy workload, long hours and sleep deprivation are all very common issues.
Whether you’re support staff feeling burnt out, a young trainee being bullied, a student struggling with the workload, an experienced partner worrying about a mistake you’ve made, a senior lawyer feeling like you’re being pushed out – we’re here to listen.
We are here to help all branches of the legal profession: solicitors, barristers, barrister’s clerks, judges, legal executives, paralegals, trade mark attorneys, patent attorneys, costs lawyers and their staff and families.
LawCare was founded by the legal profession in 1997, primarily to support lawyers who were experiencing issues with alcohol, giving them a space to talk about their problems in confidence. We now cover a range of issues, ranging from stress to depression to anxiety to bullying at work.
We have witnessed significant growth and change in the legal profession over the last two decades, as organisations started to embrace the mental health agenda and recognised the need to look after those who need support with mental health issues. Momentum around mental health and wellbeing in the legal community has been particularly growing in the last few years, with many firms now rolling out wellbeing initiatives and providing training to staff in this area. Firms need to do their best to create a healthy and happy place to work, not just because it is the right thing to do but because there is a strong proven business case for it.
Happier workforces are more productive and less likely to make mistakes. Stress contributes to raised levels of cortisol and other hormones, which negatively affect the brain’s ability to function and process information. Lawyers experiencing stress, anxiety or depression can find it difficult to concentrate, pay attention to detail or interact with colleagues. In addition regularly getting less than 7 hours’ sleep has been shown to have a significant negative impact on performance. Judgement and decision making skills are often affected by stress, as well as an ability to manage time effectively which can in turn impact on competence.
For more information on what LawCare does, how we can support you in creating a mentally healthy workplace and for additional information, resources and factsheets visit www.lawcare.org.uk.
If you need emotional support call our helpline on 0800 279 6888.