Mental health in the culture of law

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This year has been a real tipping point in terms of open the discussion around well-being and mental health – particularly about how our work can impact it.

World Mental Health Day seems a good opportunity to consider the culture of law — something which is often depicted in a negative way.

So, what is the culture of law? There is no denying that at times this profession is high-pressured, competitive and stressful. But it is also supportive, rewarding and stimulating.

We work in fast-paced environments, where we are faced with new problems to analyse daily, and often have strict targets to meet. On the flip side, those aspects are part of what attracted a lot of us to the job in the first place. However, there is the potential for these traits of the profession to affect our mental health and well-being in a negative way unless both we, and our employers, view looking after ourselves equally as important as working hard.

We still have a long way to go, but I have seen real positive change in the last few years. This improvement is owed in part to organisations like LawCare and the work of the Junior Lawyers Division, doing their best to get this issue to the top of the agenda throughout the profession. In May, I organised a panel discussion and breakfast seminar with the Cardiff Junior Lawyers Division for Mental Health Awareness Week. The reaction to these (both events were fully booked well in advance) showed that people are ready for positive change, and wiling to remove the stigma around mental health.

It was those events that prompted LawCare to ask me to be one of their ‘Champions’. The new scheme, launched today to coincide with World Mental Health Day, will help drive further positive change in the culture of law. I was incredibly honoured to receive the invitation and I can’t wait to get stuck in and act as a mental health and well-being advocate within the legal community. My aim is to continue to drive the positive change, by raising awareness about the importance of good mental health and well-being in the legal community and improving dialogue on mental health issues.

We can all make small changes that will go a long way in changing the culture of law – and there is no better day than today to start – so, use today to take some time to connect with your colleagues and ask how they really are.