An insurance law firm has appointed 19 'mental health first aiders' who will provide support and guidance for colleagues. National firm Horwich Farrelly has trained staff to spot the early signs and symptoms of mental ill health and encourage individuals to access professional support of self-help.
The announcement, thought to be the first of its kind by a UK law firm, is timed to coincide with World Mental Health Day today, which has been given the theme of ‘workplace wellbeing’.
The firm’s mental health first aiders are recruited from across the business and range from legal apprentice Georgia Wild to equity partner Nicola Critchley. They will spread across the firm’s six offices.
Horwich Farrelly will also run a range of daily activities as part of its first mental health week, asking each of its 750 employees to commit to taking steps to boost their wellbeing. Recommended changes include taking a walk at lunchtime and swapping social media for reading a book.
The firm will offer mindfulness activities and hold a coffee morning with the partners this week to discuss how to address mental health issues.
Thomas Reynard (pictured second from the left), chief operating officer, who also took part in the training said: ‘We all acknowledge that in the event someone suffers a minor injury in a workplace environment that a trained first aider will be on hand to offer help. However, if for example you’re feeling depressed or anxious, whether work-related or not, it might not be immediately obvious who you can to turn to for support.’
First aid training was provided by the charity Rethink Mental Illness, and the firm is aiming to raise £15,000 this year to support its work helping around 60,000 people a year affected by mental illness.
Awareness of mental health issues affecting the legal sector has grown significantly in recent years. The cross-profession Legal Professions Taskforce was founded in May last year, initiated by the Law Society and driven by LawCare This aims to establish and share best practice across the profession, improve the perception of mental heath and wellbeing and address what barriers still exist to people seeking help.
LawCare's helpline received 900 calls last year from solicitors in need - up from 60 in 1997, when it was founded.