Today is World Mental Health Day, a day focused on raising awareness of mental health and driving positive change for everyone’s mental health. It is also a chance to talk about mental health, how we need to look after it, and how important it is to get help if you are struggling.
It is important to recognise that whilst a career at the self-employed Bar is highly rewarding and intellectually stimulating, it can at times be overwhelming, stressful and all consuming. Those within the legal profession are often under significant pressure due to a complex and heavy workload, long hours and working on cases that may be of a distressing nature. In addition, it is essential for all work to be carried out to an excellent standard whilst also maintaining high standards of ethical and professional conduct at all times. Without a planned, proactive and constructive focus on wellbeing and work life balance, these pressures can undermine mental health and lead to anxiety, stress, burnout, or depression.
At KCH Garden Square we are committed to ensuring that the Wellbeing of all our members, staff and pupils is actively supported and we take pride in the culture of acceptance and mutual support surrounding mental health issues that has been developed within Chambers. This commitment has been recognised by the Bar Council in that KCH Garden Square is a proud recipient of the Bar Council’s Wellbeing certificate. Such certificates are awarded ‘in recognition for outstanding work to improve wellbeing at the bar.’
Our culture supports an engaged, productive and inclusive workplace. Our wellbeing agenda is constantly reviewed to respond to the ever- changing professional landscape to ensure that our members and staff continue to thrive.
As a set we have a focus on providing a collegiate, friendly and encouraging environment in which to work. Every member of Chambers is valued. Support will always be made available whenever it is sought.
We recognise that everyone has their own individual goals, preferred ways of working and individual skills set. Further, the private circumstances of each individual will differ and there may be additional pressures and demands from life outside of Chambers that need to be factored in and accommodated. As a result, we help all members tailor a practice that is suitable for them. For example, some may be able to work constantly knowing that a pre-planned holiday is on the horizon. Others prefer to continuously take small breaks or use more frequent preparation days. Some prefer to work part time. The Practice Development Team within Chambers carry through the wider company commitment to support and prioritise our members’ wellbeing and manage members diaries in line with their needs.
Within Chambers, we have various support points available, including but not limited to:
- The Wellbeing Officer, Frida Dahlqvist, is available to confidentially discuss any Wellbeing needs or initiatives.
- Our two Practice Directors and Chief Operating Officer are all trained Mental Health First Aiders and are available to offer support at any time to any barrister, pupil or staff member.
- We operate a “pupil buddy” system and a buddy is allocated to each new pupil when they start their first six, a junior member who has recently completed the pupillage process themselves and is ideally placed to offer support early in Chambers life.
In addition to various avenues of support internally, we encourage our members to make use of the vast array of external resources available. Details are included below, in the event that you who are reading this feel in need of additional support today, or at any time.
Online resources in respect of mental health and wellbeing are vast; but the Wellbeing at the Bar website is designed to specifically focus on issues affecting our profession. The website contains interviews which have been recorded with barristers across a variety of different practice areas, all of whom have been prepared to speak about how they manage their Wellbeing.
Many members will have heard of Law Care, the mental wellbeing charity for the legal profession offering free, confidential, emotional support, peer support, and resources to those working in the law.
Mind provides advice and support to anyone experiencing a mental health problem. They also campaign to improve services, raise awareness and promote understanding.
Text SHOUT to 85258. Shout is a free, confidential 24/7 text messaging service for anyone who is struggling to cope. The service is anonymous and wont appear on any phone bill.
The CALM helpline – 0800 58 58 58 – is there for anyone who needs to talk confidentially about a tough time they are experiencing. Calls are taken by trained staff who are there to listen, support, inform and signpost you to further information. The helpline is open from 5pm to midnight every day, 365 days a year.