Mental Health Awareness Week prompts renewed calls for change as wellbeing charity LawCare extends online support
The Law Society of England and Wales, the Junior Lawyers Division (JLD) and leading wellbeing charity LawCare have made renewed calls for a change in culture across the legal profession to mark Mental Health Awareness Week.
The fresh appeal follows research published by LawCare that showed the number of lawyers reaching out to its helpline with issues relating to stress had increased by almost a quarter in 2021.
Other common problems cited were anxiety, depression, bullying and worries about career development, with almost two-thirds of all contacts coming from trainees, pupils or junior lawyers.
“Report after report has demonstrated that the overall culture in law is damaging to many junior lawyers, leading to mental health problems such as burnout, depression, anxiety and (in the worst cases) self-harm and suicidal thoughts”, Suzanna Eames, chair of the JLD, said.
The Farrer & Co solicitor noted “over the course of the pandemic that the culture of a firm has a very large impact on employees’ mental health, and that positive leadership can have a real impact and can ensure that the legal profession is both fulfilling and sustainable”.
“On the contrary”, Eames explained, “employers that have left junior lawyers without support or supervision have seen staff burnout and choose to leave the firm or legal profession in order to protect their health”.
She went on to stress that “it is vital that this conversation continues to develop, and does not lose traction now that firms settle into varying models of hybrid working”.
Joining the renewed calls for change, Elizabeth Rimmer, chief executive of LawCare, said:
“If we could encourage firms and workplaces to do one thing this Mental Health Awareness Week, it would be to work towards providing management training to all supervisors and managers, and free up some of their time so they can regularly catch up with their team members to check in on how they are doing.”
LawCare also announced today it had extended its online chat service from one to four days a week. The service — first introduced in the summer of 2019 — will now be available every week, Tuesday to Friday from 9am-5pm, and will be staffed by 10 new specially trained volunteers all of whom work in, or have worked in, the law as well as the LawCare staff team.
Law Society president I. Stephanie Boyce added:
“Mental health and wellbeing are prominent themes in my presidential plan. During my term we have provided remote working guidance, launched our own mental health hub and published a range of careers resources. We must all take responsibility for our mental health and wellbeing and look to change our businesses so colleagues can have a rewarding career and a supportive workplace. The onus is on us all.”
Struggling with the stress of work? Contact LawCare via its helpline or live chat