Updated: Sep 30, 2020
We work in a stressful profession. Are you taking protective measures? Do you have good mental health hygeine? Have you thought about vicarious trauma and how to protect yourself and your staff against that? Here is a link to an article on the NSW Bar Association website regarding vicarious trauma in our profession, providing some information regarding prevention or programs available.
Here is a link to the Queensland Law Society's page which talks about the Tristan Jepson Memorial Foundation Psychological Wellbeing: Best Practice Guidelines for the Legal Profession (TJMF Guidelines). The TJMF Guidelines themselves can also be found on that page.
Mental health in the legal profession
It wouldn't come as a surprise to those working in the legal profession that mental health is a repeated concern. In this ABC article the statistics suggest that an overwhelming 85% of lawyers had experienced anxiety, or knew someone close to them in the workplace who had.
There are many different statistics floating around, none of them paints a very good picture. If you are concerned about your mental health, or the mental health of those around you, then you should reach out to your local professional organisation to see what resources are available. Some of the resources we have found include -
ACT Barristers have access to Bar Care - they have a specialist panel of mental health advisors just for barristers, and the first appointment is free - more here
NSW Solicitor Outreach Services - where the society pays for up to three sessions with a psychologist - more here
NSW Barristers have access to Bar Care - a Benevolent Society that assists barristers who encounter personal misfortune and require assistance - more here
NT Law Society - the Society funds a professional, confidential and free counselling service for our members and their immediate family, available 24/7 - more here
Queensland Bar Association - members have access to Bar Care and three free sessions a year - more here
Queensland Law Society - members can access up to six complimentary and confidential professional counselling sessions, as usual Qld lawyers are getting a bit more than other states (though the winner here is definitely NT) - more here
SA Law Society - there is apparently a system of LawCare for South Australia though actually, I struggled to find any real details that aren't under a paywall, so perhaps reach out to your association?
Tasmanian Law Society - again there is apparently a system of LawCare but there is no publicly available information about what it is, or what you get, so reach out to your association about that.
Victorian Bar Association - two counselling sessions for members and their families - more here
Victorian Law Society - there are actually a number of initiatives, but most relevant here is a 24/7 service providing support and counselling where the first three hours are free - more here
Western Australia's Law Society also provides three free sessions a year - more here
Looking after ourselves
These resources from our professional bodies are important, but it is also important that as practitioners we look after ourselves. How we do that, look, after ourselves, looks different for everybody.
One thing that is important, and is I think grossly underrated, is your professional network. Being understood and having a relationship with people who understand you is a fundamental part of, well, being a human being. Because we are all multi-faceted individuals there won't be a lot of people who understand all of us.
When was the last time you called someone in your professional network just for a chat? Just to see how they were? What are you doing to intentionally stoke that professional network? Social media and emails are great and they have definitely been a saviour during these crazy COVID times, but research does show that a phone call creates a better mental health outcome and a better sense of connectedness than any 'text based' alternative - more here
So sure, reach out to your networks electronically but also, have you called anyone on the phone recently?
If you are a Family Law practitioner, whether that is as a lawyer, mediator, court officer, financial adviser or other parallel professional you could join our Flexible Family Law group on Facebook. It is a place to chat about all of the challenges and share information. You can join here.