“How are you? How are you really?” are a powerful pair of questions. A few colleagues and I are currently doing a coaching qualification and this is one of the first strategies I learned to deploy. This pair of unassuming questions might be a good starting point for mental health awareness week, which runs from 9 to 15 May.
I know from work that there are conversations about mental health going on around me all the time. Sometimes this is about difficulties people might be having, sometimes it is about things to do to look after your own mental health and often it is about our clients. Mental health is moving into the 'okay to talk about' category.
An example of increased understanding and empathy is how the law has recognised the impact of mental and psychological harm on claimants in compensation cases. The 16th edition of the Judicial College's Guidelines recently published has increased general damages brackets for psychological and psychiatric injury, compared to the 15th edition. Some of the narrative has been refined and a new sub-category has been added for psychiatry harm in the context of sexual and/or physical abuse. This shows how the perception of mental health has changed even in a context as stuffy as the law!
This year’s theme for Mental Health Awareness week is loneliness. The transition away from covid restrictions, towards the 'new normal' (who else hates that phrase?!) and hybrid working makes this theme relevant for all of us.
There are things which we can all do to preserve and protect good mental health and support those around us who have difficulties with their mental health. The Mind website has practical ideas. The Mental Health UK website has a fantastic conversation guide for recognising issues and starting conversations to help others.
One of the sections on the Mind website covers the importance of exercise for mental health. Exercise can be accompanied by spending time with friends, family and even new people to meet, which can add another benefit to one's mental health. Recently a team at Anthony Collins Solicitors ran the Birmingham half marathon and 10K together to raise money for Mind. As well as fundraising for this important charity, it also cemented a real team feeling amongst colleagues and gave them all the adrenalin and endorphin buzz they needed.
Working in the legal sector can be especially demanding at times. There is pressure from targets, pressure we put on ourselves from striving to do the best for our clients and upset when we hear from our clients about the trauma they are facing. Being realistic, one step such as exercise alone is not going to ameliorate all of that stress but having a few building blocks to protect one's mental health and measures in place to support those around us really can make a difference.
For trainee solicitors reading this, the Birmingham Trainee Solicitor Society (BTSS) is putting on an event on Tuesday 10 May, 5.30 to 7.30pm, at Anthony Collins Solicitors offices. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com if you’d like to come along.
If you’d like to hear about counselling and mental health from the perspective of a lawyer, watch out for the podcast going live on our website next week.
Mental Health Awareness Week is an annual event when there is an opportunity for the whole of the UK to focus on achieving good mental health.