Solicitors must keep wellbeing conversations going.
This year’s Mental Health Awareness week led to numerous initiatives being unveiled, which was encouraging to see in light of Law Society statistics that show almost all practising certificate holders have experienced negative stress in their working lives, and 16% have experienced ‘severe’ or ‘extreme’ levels of stress.
But now that Mental Health Awareness Week is over, it is even more important that the conversations about solicitors’ wellbeing keep going and get those alarming percentage figures down.
One way to keep the conversation going is simply by sharing stories. The Law Society, for instance, has profiled three brave solicitors who have suffered with mental ill-heath but managed to find a way through.
I was recently inspired to hear Government Legal Department solicitor Chetna Bhatt speak about the support she received from her employers after she fell ill with ME and had to take a significant period of time off work.
Bhatt tells me: 'I was fortunate enough to have an incredibly supportive employer with supportive policies and practices in place such that, when I fell ill, the GLD gave me all the support I needed to aid my recovery, including allowing me to work part time. On my return to work, I was treated compassionately and given the time I needed to recover. I have no doubt that their invaluable support was a key part of my healing process.’
A spokesperson for the GLD tells me the department works ‘very hard’ to promote a culture ’that encourages attendance, a healthy working environment and a good balance between our people’s work and home priorities’.
Initiatives at the GLD include a range of flexible working patterns, 24-hour access to free advice and counselling, in-house GP surgeries and a cycle-to-work scheme.
The spokesperson says: ‘Our culture is one of openness and we work to cultivate an environment where our people, and also managers, are encouraged to voice their concerns about their wellbeng and that of their teams’.
There may be just under a year to go until the next Mental Health Awareness Week, but let’s try and keep the conversations going.
Monidipa Fouzder is a Gazette reporter