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Legal mental health charity to create army of ‘wellbeing advocates’

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LawCare scheme launches on World Mental Health Day

Mental health charity LawCare has launched a new initiative that aims to create an army of “wellbeing advocates” across the legal community.

The charity — which operates a free, independent and confidential helpline offering support to legal professionals — has already secured the services of fourteen “champions”, including Charles Jacobs, senior partner and chairman at Linklaters, Francis Taylor Buildings’ James Pereira QC and Freshfields‘ lawyer Lloyd Rees, who went public in 2018 with his own battles with mental ill-health in a series of candid blog posts.

‘LawCare Champions’ officially launched today to coincide with World Mental Health Day, a day for global mental health education, awareness and advocacy against social stigma.

Event: Mental health and wellbeing in the law -- with Taylor Wessing on Tuesday 15 October

“This is a cross-jurisdiction, cross-profession initiative and our new champions have all been carefully chosen for their commitment, passion and enthusiasm in raising awareness about the importance of good mental health and wellbeing in the legal community”, Elizabeth Rimmer, chief executive of LawCare, said. “We hope our champions will help us to drive positive change in the culture of law. The theme of this year’s World Mental Health Day is suicide prevention, and we must all come together in the legal community to improve dialogue on mental health issues.”

Some of LawCare’s new wellbeing advocates

News of the initiative follows research by LexisNexis which found that almost two-thirds of solicitors (66%) were suffering “high levels” of stress, while roughly one in four described their stress levels as “extreme” or “very high”. Thirty percent of the 176 solicitors who responded to the survey described their stress levels as “average”.

In 2018, LawCare’s helpline received 932 calls from 624 callers — an increase of 5% on 2017. The most common reason for calling was stress (26%), followed by depression (19%) and anxiety (11%).

Feeling stressed? You can contact LawCare by calling 0800 279 6888 in the UK.

Event: Mental health and wellbeing in the law - with Taylor Wessing on Tuesday 15 October

23 Comments

Anonymous

I hope this initiative is used to help people wrongly accused of sexual harassment. This is a large cause of mental health problems in the legal profession.

Anonymous

Ah, the broken record is back.

Anonymous

Indeed it is – good enlightened attitude you have towards mental health issues.

Not Amused

It concerns me that you seem to brush under the carpet the very real health implications of being falsely accused of something.

Heart problems from the anxiety. An opaque tint in the opposite side and those who resemble them, crushing social engagement and warping the psyche.

Perhaps its not a broken record, but a true attempt at showing both sides of the coin, with one currently being underrepresented in these affairs. And if you want some harder facts, maybe look at how more men kill themselves than women and question whether there might be a problem in the profession and society more widely and whether being “Falsely” accused of sexual harassment or not adds or contributes to that figure should be considered.

Anonymous

Exactly. So many false accusations made with accusers hiding behind anonymity while innocent accused are forever battling against the reporting of false allegations as if they were true. Either everyone is in the public or no-one is until there is a decision. False accusers should be named as of course.

reher

Are you the original Not Amused who used to post on here a few years ago?

Anonymous

Regardless of who you are, good point well made.

Anonymous

Somehow, I think the more general pressures one associates with the legal profession are more of an issue. Long hours, deadlines, and office politics.

Anonymous

Somehow I disagree. I think the mental health impact on the accused of false claims of sexual harassment is greater than the stress caused by overwork. It comes under what you describe as office politics. I think bad management and workplace bullying are the most common causes of mental health problems in the workplace and the biggest issues – false claims of sexual harassment are a big part of this and are a huge issue. In any case, people suffer mental health injuries at work for a number of reasons and we should be careful not to play down the extent of problems or airbrush the ‘issues’.

Anonn

So funny that you have absolutely no statistics or objective evidence of mass false accusations against lawyers,

I don’t feel “I’m right and I’m right and it’s because I’m right” is a great way to argue a client’s point.

Anonymous

Read the comments here and on other articles. As you know though, it is for the accuser to to provide evidence, not for the accused to provide evidence of their innocence. You aren’t a client. Sorry you find false accusations of sexual harassment and the resultant mental health problems they cause funny.

None of this deflects from the fact that false accusations of sexual harassment are a major cause of mental health injuries in the legal profession and other industries. I would ask decision makers and those looking at improving mental health in the workplace to accept this as a reality and recognise the problem.

Not Amused

*writes long and meaning post* – Legal cheek’s already deleted everything…

Anonymous

You really should let people talk about this LC if you’re going to post articles on the subject and stop deleting comments unnecessarily. Talking about mental health issues is one of the most important things that can be done – if they’re not spoken about then nothing will change.

Realist

“This is a very complex subject with many subjective aspects. As someone who has worked in mental health for 30 years I detect considerable concept creep. The threshold for being diagnosed is lower and a wider range of complaints are being described as mental illness. So I do not believe there is an epidemic of mental illness but there is an epidemic of publicity. Perhaps this is a sign of increased compassion or self indulgence. It’s hard to say. But let’s not confuse hard times, bad days, the process of maturing with mental illness.”
Stuart Hannell

“I’m afraid I agree with you. I’m a psychotherapist who works with patients suffering from PTSD. My sense from my own experience is that we are increasingly pathologising the normal gamut of human distress and the understandable reactions to extraordinary trauma and hardships life can bring to bear. That in no way denigrates or minimises the enormous suMering and emotional pain experienced . From my own work more often than not the level of trauma experienced and resulting mental health struggles is unrelated to an original event but more the perceived and actual lack of social support available at crucial junctures in a patient’s life . The DSM 5 has played a huge role in this pathologising by creating ever more definitions and labels for US medical insurance purposes.”
ML Day

Comments under, ‘Pouring billions into treating mental illness doesn’t add up’, Matthew Parris, The Times, November 24 2018

Anonymous

You don’t say what your point is Realist, and its maybe a strange post to make in response to an article published on Word Mental Health Day. Not sure that increased mental health spending in the UK will benefit US medical insurers.

I think we’ve got a lot better at recognising mental health issues and that modern practitioners are a lot more enlightened at doing this than in the past. There’s still a lot of the attitude that if something can’t be seen it doesn’t exist or that mental health injuries can be cured by ‘pulling oneself together’, but those approaches are thankfully becoming more anachronistic. That’s not to say that there aren’t people who think/claim to be mentally ill when they’re not or that there aren’t minor every day stresses which don’t amount to serious mental illnesses. But the working environment is a breeding ground for serious and preventable mental health issues.

The problem with comments like the ones you mention are that they can play down the seriousness of mental health problems or make it seem like the problems suffered are a result of something different than those complained about. This is dangerous, as employers will very often try to blame the person who has been injured at work for the problem – instead of the mental health injury being caused by the bullying boss, the false accuser, the political appraisal, etc., it will be blamed on personal problems, not being able to cope with the workload, etc. I would highlight this to the fourteen champions in this initiative- please be aware of the tendency for employers to do this and focus on the actual causes of mental health in workplaces, not what the employer would wish them to be.

Realist

I see your point, but I believe that we have vastly exaggerated the extent of so-called mental health problems, and medicalised the normal ups and downs of human life. Second, I think that we also do people a disservice by suggesting that anyone can and should succeed in law. Just as we might suggest that a ‘compassionate but not academic’ sixth former should perhaps look towards a ‘people-focused’ job rather than a Maths or Physics PhD, we do people a disservice if we pretend that anyone can handle stressful jobs. Chris Hargreaves, an experienced lawyer who produces a podcast for junior lawyers starting their careers (https://tipsforlawyers.com), makes this point: this career isn’t for everyone. I was speaking to a magic circle departmental head earlier this year, who made the same point. He complained that he had two trainees solicitors on long-term mental health leave, neither of whom in his view ought ever to have been considered for a training contract at the outset: they were very well-qualified, but not very robust.

Anyway, back to the first point. Here is an article from someone else for more qualified than me to make the point about mental health being exaggerated:

BMJ 2017;358:j4305 doi: 10.1136/bmj.j4305 (Published 2017 September 21), downloadable from https://twin.sci-hub.tw/6530/0dc94e79632aef58559ec65107c31cb7/arie2017.pdf

** Simon Wessely: “Every time we have a mental health awareness week my spirits sink” **

The first psychiatrist president of the Royal Society of Medicine is worried that over-awareness of mental ill health will sink an under-resourced service

One of the UK’s most prominent psychiatrists has called for an end to public awareness campaigning about mental health. It “massively expands demand” on already stretched NHS services and may be convincing people they are ill when they are not, warns Simon Wessely, who was until June president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists.

“Every time we have a mental health awareness week my spirits sink,” says Wessely, who in July became the first psychiatrist
to be president of the Royal Society of Medicine. “We don’t need people to be more aware. We can’t deal with the ones who already are aware.”

Fresh from his move to the royal society, Wessely remains concerned about the over-reporting and under-resourcing of mental illness, and the lack of integration between mental and physical health services—despite NHS England head Simon Stevens’ affirmation last month that mental health is now “front and centre” of the health service agenda.

“I’m really worried that we will overstretch and demoralise our mental health services if all we do is raise awareness but don’t provide more people, better circumstances, better support, and less burden of regulation,” he told The BMJ.

Too much awareness

Recent years have seen a major drive by government, the NHS, and mental health charities to change attitudes towards mental health and to raise its profile in line with physical health. In a crescendo of media coverage, royals and celebrities have opened up about their own struggles.

Despite having welcomed Prince Harry’s interview about his mental health in April this year, Wessely believes we can have too much of a good thing: too much awareness. He particularly questions surveys in which most students report having mental health problems.

“We should stop the awareness now. In fact, if anything we might be getting too aware. One wonders what’s happening when you have 78% of students telling their union they have mental health problems—you have to think, ‘Well, this seems unlikely.’”
If we have made progress on the profile of mental health, then the same cannot be said of the resourcing of services against a background of increasing demand. Theresa May has pledged to “end the burning injustice of mental health and inadequate treatment” [3] and this summer the government announced a £1.3bn (€1.5bn; $1.8bn) plan to expand mental health services by recruiting enough nurses, therapists, and consultants to treat an extra million patients by 2020/2021. [4]

Yet some noted that this would only begin to replace over 6000 mental health nursing posts that have been closed since 2010, [5] and the Royal College of Nursing warned that it would be hard to train enough people within the timeframe set. [6]

“The worry is that they will get a lot of pretty cheap [people]. They will have to be cheap, not that well trained, inexperienced people who will do nice touchy feely stuff—but they’re not going to be able to manage the difficult stuff,” says Wessely.

Integration

Wessely, whose main role is regius professor of psychiatry at King’s College London, believes that what would make the most difference, in terms of breaking down stigma and improving services for patients, is proper integration of mental and physical health services. “I’d give up parity between mental and physical health any day if I could have integration,” he says. What patients most want is for mental and physical services to be together, he says, because it is when staff work together that they understand each other’s —and the patient’s—needs better.

But, however logical that may seem, with mental health trusts separate from physical health the system set up under the Health and Social Care Act of 2012 does not make it easy to offer this kind of integrated care. When psychiatrists see patients who also have physical health problems, and vice versa, they cannot share their notes because the computer systems are separate and behind firewalls.

Although the government has said it wants to integrate services better, Wessely says that its much vaunted Improving Access
to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) programme, introduced in 2008 to provide cognitive behavioural therapy services to people with anxiety and depression, has instead created a sort of “third way,” independent of both primary and secondary care.

The success of IAPT, which hit the government’s target in January of 50% recovery for those who complete a course of therapy, is being overplayed, he says, and the figures “massaged” because of the government’s need for treatments that show quick results.

Pest control

That mental health has become “fashionable” in recent years has not made it more appealing to medical students, Wessely notes. Stigma within the medical profession is a big part of the problem and in terms of changing their attitudes the “public are ahead
of us,” he says. Peer pressure and family pressure are two of the main reasons students state for not wanting to specialise in psychiatry.

Wessely, who qualified at Oxford and trained at the Maudsley Hospital in London, where he is still a consultant, knew he wanted to go into psychiatry early on. But he remembers countless times when colleagues spoke with derision about the specialty and suggested that he was too good a doctor to go into mental health. Some believed there was nothing wrong with mental health patients, some believed they were all “sabre wielding” and dangerous, and others believed anyone who is interested in psychiatry must be mad themselves.

“I vividly remember neurologists at Queen Square [the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery in London] would always say, ‘You seem a decent enough chap. I can’t understand why you want to do psychiatry.’ “My senior house officer was quite upset a few weeks ago when she turned up at the emergency department and someone said, ‘Oh look, here’s the pest controller.’ It’s terrible. That happens a lot.”

#BantheBash

While concerned about the risks of making the public too aware of mental health, Wessely is passionate about tackling this stigma within the medical profession and finding ways to get medical students excited about psychiatry. As president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, Wessely launched its Anti-BASH (#BantheBash) campaign to try to end the stigma within the profession. “I spent a lot of effort on that. We’ve stopped the rot. Recruitment of psychiatrists was going down and now it’s leveled out.”

He rejects as “nonsense” the idea that psychiatrists are themselves the most guilty, within the medical profession, of prejudice against some forms of mental illness.
“We are not part of the global conspiracy of making everyone into a mental health problem. We do the opposite,” says Wessely.
“We really are the people who try to maintain some form of boundary between sadness and depression, between eccentricity and autism, between shyness and social phobia. “We will say, ‘Look, this isn’t a psychiatric problem,’ because we are acutely aware of the dangers of overmedicalisation of what are normal emotional problems.” An expert in post traumatic stress disorder, Wessely’s work helped established the principle that victims of trauma should not see a psychiatrist or counsellor immediately as it can cause problems for the majority who will recover with time. “You might sometimes see that as unsympathetic. It’s based on having a view that we do not want to treat the world.”

Footnotes:

1 Silver K. One in three “sick notes” for mental health, says NHS. 2017. http://www.bbc.co.uk/ news/health-41124238.
2 National Union of Students. Mental health poll 2015. http://www.nusconnect.org.uk/resources/ mental-health-poll-2015.
3 Department for Education. Department of Health, the Charity Commission, Prime Ministers’s Office, 10 Downing Street, May T. The shared society: Prime minister’s speech at the Charity Commission annual meeting. 2017. http://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/ the-shared-society-prime-ministers-speech-at-the-charity-commission-annual-meeting.
4 Department of Health. Thousands of new roles to be created inmenatl health workforce plan. 2017. http://www.gov.uk/government/news/thousands-of-new-roles-to-be-created-in- mental-health-workforce-plan.
5 Berger L. Mental health services: nurses: written question: 50523. 2016. http://www.parliament. uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-question/Commons/ 2016-10-26/50523.
6 Royal College of Nursing. Press release: RCN responds to mental health workforce plan. 2017. http://www.rcn.org.uk/-/media/royal-college-of-nursing/documents/press-releases-uk- wide/2017/july/rcn-responds-to-mental-health-workforce-plan.docx?la=en& hash=301CE6FD19587056CD0DFAA2D7677D5487608980.
7 The King’s Fund. Workforce planning in the NHS. 2015. http://www.kingsfund.org.uk/sites/ default/files/field/field_publication_file/Workforce-planning-NHS-Kings-Fund-Apr-15.pdf.
8 Centre for Workforce Intelligence. Indepth review of the psychiatric workforce. 2014. www. gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/507557/CfWI_ Psychiatrist_in-depth_review.pdf.
9 Wise J. Some mental healthcare is “rooted in the past.” 2017. http://www.bmj.com/content/358/ bmj.j3528.
10 Marsh S. Ambulance call-outs for mental health patients in England soar by 23%. 2017. http://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/aug/13/ambulance-call-outs-mental-health-patients- soar-23-per-cent.
Published by the BMJ

Anonymous

I would say we’ve got a lot better at recognising mental health problems, I would use the term diagnosing rather than medicalising. Mental health initiatives should focus on the more serious problems, but to do this it is important to recognise those problems which are short term and likely to be a result of everyday vagaries of life too, in order that the causes of long-term mental health issues (bad management, workplace bullying, false accusations of sexual harassment, overload of work etc.) can be correctly identified and discussed.

I agree that not everyone is cut out for a career in law, indeed it sounds as if the magic circle departmental head mentioned, who may be suffering from mental illness himself, may be one of them as he appears to have a poor understanding of mental health issues for someone in his position and more than one person working for him who suffers from mental health problems.

The Wessely article is quite verbose, but after reading it the gist seems to be that self-reporting surveys shouldn’t be trusted (which I agree with) and that we shouldn’t make people aware of their mental health because there isn’t the money to treat them (which I don’t).

Anonnnnn

We should also be aware that sociopaths and psychopaths can claim ‘mental health’ problems as a manipulative way to absolve themselves of personal responsibility.

I knew one woman who cheated on her boyfriend and then claimed it “didn’t count” because she was “having a manic episode” at the time.

She says the same whenever the credit card bill gets too high, only for her parents to bail her out financially as she’s ‘ill’.

This is not the case for all mentally ill people, but I refuse to believe everyone who claims mental illness does so because they are truly unwell or lack capacity.

Anonymous

Sociopaths and psychopaths by definition have mental health problems.

I don’t think anyone is arguing that everyone who claims mental illness actually suffers from it or much less that they lack capacity (not everyone suffering from a mental illness lacks capacity), but at the same time it would be wrong to argue that nobody who claims mental illness is actually suffering, or to deny the causes of mental illness, and this initiative will hopefully help sufferers and genuinely address the causes of mental illness.

Debt is a leading cause of mental health problems, so it could well be that your female acquaintance does need help and is I’ll not ‘ill’.

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