The Solicitors’ Charity has reported a 68% rise in claimants suffering from poor mental health, amid fears that the pandemic will place extra strain on the legal profession.
According to the charity’s annual report, around a third of beneficiaries declared mental health issues last year, up from 19% in 2018. Meanwhile, 17% said they had a serious or long-term health condition.
Of the 292 solicitors who received grants or loans last year, 29% were aged between 51 and 60, and 41% worked in small firms. In contrast, just 3% were under 30 and 5% worked in City practices.
Mary Jackson, coordinator at LawCare, the legal charity which partners with The Solicitors’ Charity said: ‘There’s still a misconception that solicitors are ruthless, tough and financially secure, strangers to adversity but they are indeed “only” human as well as being highly driven professionals. Adversity can strike at any time and lawyers aren’t immune from hardship, at the core of every call we receive is stress, worry and often anxiety.’
Nick Gallagher, chief executive of The Solicitors’ Charity added: ‘Our annual statistics are often eye-opening, but such a dramatic increase in claimants declaring poor mental health was unexpected. I think there’s an element that people are increasingly more comfortable sharing that they are struggling mentally, whereas previously it was still something you wouldn’t talk about. This brings confidence that the wider message of talking about mental health is working, although it doesn’t provide a solution.’
The charity has created a £1m emergency hardship fund for solicitors affected by coronavirus and who have exhausted other options such as government and statutory support or mortgage holidays. Payments to some applicants have already been processed.