Each year, October 10th marks World Mental Health Day, which highlights the vital importance of mental health globally. The day provides the chance to talk about mental health, its importance, how to look after it and where to get help if you are struggling. It is also an ideal opportunity to consider how everyone can protect their mental health and wellbeing. Mental illness does not discriminate and now affects one in four people in any given year.
KCH Garden Square is committed to both actively supporting the wellbeing of all our members, pupils & staff and to reducing the stigma surrounding mental health issues.
Working within the legal profession can be very rewarding but we recognise that it can also be pressurised and stressful. The challenges faced by the profession today are many and varied and have had an impact on wellbeing and mental health. The 2021 Barrister Working Lives Survey indicated that over a third of respondents had a low level of overall wellbeing and 26% had low levels of psychological wellbeing.
We need to do as much as possible to prevent mental ill-health – as individuals and as a society. The past few years have highlighted the importance of good mental health and the need to achieve parity of esteem.
Prevention is always better than cure and we should look for ways to develop a multifaceted approach for long-term, sustained improvement in mental health and to help prevent mental ill-health from developing. In many cases, mental health problems can be managed, or even prevented, by maintaining a good level of wellbeing.
There are a number of ways that those within the profession can invest in wellbeing to support a resilient and productive working life and reduce the risk of stress and burn out. We set out below a few our tips and also some of the things we are doing at KCH Garden Square to manage wellbeing.
Connect with others
Communication and connection with others is incredibly important. Whether it be to spend time with loved ones or friends, let off steam or check in with someone, the wellbeing benefits, especially for those who may live alone or have a smaller local support network, should not be underestimated.
Within Chambers, Wellbeing Officer, Frida Dahlqvist, is not only available to discuss any Wellbeing needs or initiatives, but also organises regular events, from countryside walks to Sunday lunches to provide an opportunity to get together outside of a professional setting. It is important to us that we maintain the sense of community and a feeling of connectedness, especially as we have continued to grow as a set and with remote working having continued beyond the pandemic lockdowns.
Mental Health First Aid
All line managers within our team of staff are qualified Mental Health First Aiders and are a point of contact for anyone who may need support. Mental Health First Aiders have been trained to spot any risk factors and warning signs for mental health concerns, in strategies for how to help someone, and where to turn for help.
Supporting flexible working practices
There are many reasons for individuals choosing to work part-time at the Bar, from caring responsibilities to teaching to seeking to improve their work / life balance. Whatever the reason, it the choice is always available to our members and Chambers is fully supportive of any member who wishes to practice flexibly.
We also provide support to individuals during periods of parental leave as well as during the months after their return to practice, regardless of the length of leave or what working basis on which they choose to return. Policies are also in place to provide support to staff who request to change the basis on which they work.
General support throughout Chambers
KCH Garden Square is a set with a focus on providing Counsel, pupils and staff with a friendly and encouraging environment in which to work and the collegiate atmosphere within Chambers continues to be fostered.
Our aim is to create a culture of acceptance and mutual support surrounding mental health issues. We hope to ensure that all our members feel able to prioritise their own wellbeing within a career which does not always make this easy to achieve. We are a supportive and approachable organisation and support will always be made available whenever it is sought. All members are welcome to address their wellbeing needs however and with whoever they feel most comfortable with. We recognise our duty to ensure our members are suitably supported and that any information discussed is treated with the strictest confidence.
We also encourage discussion with the Practice Development teams, either during ad hoc conversations or during practice reviews, as adjustments to practice management may assist alleviate issues.
A great deal of support is available to our pupils, from pupil buddy’s and supervisors to advice and support from the pupillage committee and wider membership.
If you would like to find out more about World Mental Health Day or access some of the many resources available, below provides links to some of the many charities and organisations who offer support, advice and assistance to anyone who may need it:
Wellbeing at the Bar – The Bar Council’s online hub providing a range of wellbeing support services and resources to barristers.
LawCare – the mental wellbeing charity for the legal community.
Mind – the mental health charity making sure no one has to face a mental health problem alone.
LAMP – providing independent community mental health advocacy to the people of Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland.
Mental Health UK– working across England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland to support people affected by mental health problems.
Mental Health Foundation – providing information and advice to help understand and look after your mental health.