Post- Pandemic, every country faces mental health crisis as 264 million people are affected by depression globally, with 45 million affected by bipolar disorder. Are mental health issues genuinely increasing or has gradual de-stigmatization of mental health disorders resulted in people acknowledging their struggles? Poor mental health affects society diversely with specific professions witnessing higher mental health impacts. For the legal sector, declining mental health is becoming a major issue. Long hours, high pressure work, and ambitious financial targets are the daily routine of legal practitioners, causing steep decline in mental well-being.
LAW IS A STRESSFUL PROFESSION
An independent charity supporting UK’s legal community, LawCare, found their helpline handled stress issues (26%), with anxiety issues (11%) for lawyers reaching out. Further, a study by Protectivity, found that professionals working in Human Resources were the most stressed, followed by those in the Legal Sector. Poor mental health in the legal sector is not a new revelation. Many law firms have tried to improve staff well-being, but the core issue remains unsolved. Whilst the mental health stigma has eased during the past decade, it is still difficult to express professional mental health concerns, than in personal life. Today even strong achievers could struggle with individual mental health issues. If professionals still feel the stigma, much more remains to be done.
RESPONSIBILITY FOR MENTAL WELL-BEING OF LAWYERS
While stress is inevitable and unavoidable for any solicitor, dangers exist for all professionals in the legal profession. Whilst some stress is expected in any profession, when it is on-going and excessive, damages could hit legal firms hard. Widespread mental health issues leads to increased sick leave across the company, decreases organisational productivity, increases employee turnover, affects morale, and long-term profits fall. If mental health issues of employees are navigated in isolation, their potential brilliance will be drowned altogether. Trying to pinpoint one cause and consequences of lawyers’ mental affliction, is impossible as mental health issues are complex, without defined single solutions. Corporate lawyer face different problems being that are faced by a barrister, or law centre and legal aid solicitor. Lawyers are people first and legal professionals second and face factors arising from race, sexuality, religion, gender, and class background which play a massive role in mental wellbeing across society, and this is reflected in their professional lives.
WHAT TO DO?
Although recommendations for yoga, a better diet, journaling, and an early night, are excellent self-help tools but rarely impact long-term well-being of individuals. All law firms should support staff members in initiatives like the Mental Health First Aider (MHFA) and create a supportive and open workspace for employees, and encourage daily discussions on mental health. Various forms of mental illness ranging from personality disorders, psychosis, depression, and addiction, are part of the MHFA course. Legal first aiders are trained to assist colleagues, struggling mentally, and more professional support if necessary. Law firms have benefited from the MHFA initiative which reduces lingering stigmas on mental health issues. The MHFA initiative and success, is important as also other mental health provisions, is no catch-all safety net. With emerging mental health issues occurring in the workplace, more support systems are being established. The more mental health issues are discussed in wider society and professional settings, life becomes easier for everyone.