Gazette readers who have heard successful lawyers talk openly about their own history of mental health problems will have been be struck by the generous and sympathetic reception they get.
Such events have helped reduce the stigma that traditionally attaches to mental health in the legal profession. This is part of an identifiable trend across society, business and politics. The difficult things people deal with are inspirational.
Inspiration is not enough, though. A decent infrastructure is required to support good mental health for all. Information and training are needed to spot and deal with occasions when destructive stress, anxiety or grief require support, resource or rest.
There are, of course, practical incentives for the legal profession to improve its record here. If, as is widely discussed, law firms are moving from a straight pyramid structure, which assumes a high attrition rate, they cannot afford to lose people as they did in the past. Retaining them means paying attention to their wellbeing, as well as their rewards and development.
A note of caution as lawyers turn their attention to wellbeing and mental health. Well-intentioned people are naturally drawn to the ‘perfection model’, and love the idea that their support effected a ‘cure’. When the narrative is less neat, interest and engagement can wane.
As the legal profession prepares to mark World Mental Health Day on 10 October, its members should be aware of and reflect on that tendency. Support may be needed for the long-, as well as the short-, haul.