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Improving mental health and wellbeing among lawyers

8th Feb 2017

Large numbers of lawyers are seeking help with stress, raising questions about what is being done to combat poor mental health and wellbeing among legal professionals.

The charity LawCare spoke to 555 callers last year – an increase of 12% on the 496 it received in 2015. Some 912 calls were received in 2016 in total compared to 907 the year before.

Stress (up from 30 to 38%) and depression (down from 20 to 12%) accounted for the highest amount of calls received by the charity in 2016. LawCare said it was “not surprised” that stress came out on top and has concentrated its efforts on reducing the impact on those affected.

Angus Lyon, a consultant at Mears, Hobbs & Durrant and author of A Lawyer’s Guide to Wellbeing and Managing Stress, said it was important for law firms and professional bodies take the lead on promoting mental health in the workplace.

LawCare is encouraging all lawyers to learn strategies for coping with stress, which include taking regular breaks, spending more time with friends and family, eating well, and exercising. Most importantly, however, the charity’s chief executive, Elizabeth Rimmer, urged sufferers not to stay silent.

Chetna Bhatt and Lauren Giblin, co-founders of Being Lawyers, have been working with the profession to help lawyers increase their performance and reduce stress with a view to improving their overall health. Asked how lawyers can lower their stress levels, Bhatt and Giblin advised acknowledging you are simply in a low quality state of mind and not thinking as clearly as normal; resist the temptation to fight whatever you are feeling and let the feelings of stress naturally pass; and notice how your noisy mind naturally quiets and a state of clarity emerges so you can deal with any challenges you may be facing.

Law Society research shows that 95% of lawyers experience ‘negative stress’ in their jobs, with 17% describing such stress as ‘extreme’. LawCare is driving the Legal Professions Wellbeing Taskforce in England and Wales, and Legal Wellbeing Scotland, where organisations across the legal community are collaborating to raise awareness and tackle the stigma associated with talking about mental health issues, particularly at work.