Profession unites to create mental health taskforce

Fifteen organisations from the legal profession have joined forces to create a new taskforce promoting mental wellbeing in the legal community.

An Australian study earlier this year found that lawyers suffer from “significantly lower levels of psychological and psychosomatic health wellbeing than other professionals.”

The Legal Professions Wellbeing Taskforce will identify areas where collaboration on mental health issues will be beneficial. It will also identify mechanisms for establishing and sharing best practice, identify how to improve the perception of mental health and address stigma as a barrier to accessing support.

The Law Society and LawCare are the two organisations driving the scheme, with the Bar Council, the Solicitors Regulation Authority, CILEx, CILEx Regulation, the Law Society’s Equality Diversity and Inclusion Committee, the Institute of Trade Mark Attorneys, the University of Law, BPP, Newcastle University, Linklaters, the City Mental Health Alliance, the Junior Lawyers’ Division and the Bar Standards Board all on board.

President of the Law Society Jonathan Smithers said: “Law can be a demanding career. Many of us are drawn to the intellectual challenge and thrive on the high pressure our work entails, but with this high pressure can come stress.”

“It is vital for legal professionals that there is greater awareness of the importance of mental health and greater openness to enable conversations about this issue.”

“The taskforce provides a welcome opportunity to work collaboratively with experts from across the legal sector to enhance mental health and wellbeing provision throughout our diverse community.”

LawCare chief executive Elizabeth Rimmer added: “LawCare has identified that there is very low awareness of the support and services available to those in the legal community, and that there is stigma attached to acknowledging mental health issues.

“There is also a lack of knowledge in the community itself about good practice and what that looks like, and to date there is no evaluative research on the effectiveness of existing wellbeing programmes.”

A stress survey run by Lawyer 2B revealed that just 17 per cent of lawyers are aware of initiatives within their firm to help employees manage stress.

A further 28 per cent weren’t sure whether their firm had policies in place or not, while more than half – 55 per cent – said their firm had no stress-busting initiatives.