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Positive mental health is important in the work place.

View profile for Julia Shaikh
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It was World Mental Health Day this year on the 10 October.

The Mental Health Foundation suggests that ‘Tea and Talk’ is a great way to come together in difficult times to raise awareness for mental health. Prior to the Covid 19 pandemic, Johnson Astills Solicitors regularly enjoyed a catch up and chat. Unfortunately, recent times have not allowed us to get together over a cuppa in the same way.

The legal profession has a unique culture, with particular pressures and expectations that can easily have implications on mental health. The President of the Law Society for England and Wales, Simon Davis blogged recently that solicitors in all kinds of practice have many features in common; they are perfectionist, tough on themselves, fear failure and are deeply empathetic. It is not surprising that this personality type will experience stress.

More than thirty years ago, I found myself in difficulties. During the course of a few weeks, I started to feel as if two hands were twisting and squeezing my insides. I felt tense and anxious​, experienced feeling of doom and found solace in part by taking warm baths in the evening to try to calm myself down.

I had no idea what had triggered these dark feelings. I was not working particularly long hours; I was working in a firm which made me very happy and I liked the people and clients I worked with. If anything, that made me feel even worse. With the benefit of hindsight, I realised that I was worrying (unnecessarily it has turned out) that I was lacking the talents needed to progress in my career, in short that I was pretty rubbish at my job.

I spoke to no one because I did not know what to say. I found myself scribbling during the day little notes of gloom to self. Things could have deteriorated quite seriously. But one day, about three months after it started, I woke up and extraordinarily the dark feelings had gone, vanished entirely. I have never experienced them again. I was lucky.

If I had known then that there was someone from an organisation like LawCare who I could have spoken to on a confidential basis, where I could have spoken to someone who might have reassured me that I was not alone, it would have been a great comfort. They could have given me concrete suggestions on how to cope and most importantly of all reassured me that I was not rubbish. I may have found something much more helpful and rewarding than my tepid bath.

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What is LawCare:

LawCare is an independent charity who offers emotional support, information and training within the legal community. They work to promote good mental health in the work place and support mental health in the legal community.

Support – Helpline, peer support, web chat and resources

Prevention + Education – Information, training, awareness and tackling stigma

Research – To understand the impact the culture and practice of law has on wellbeing and mental health.

Create Change – Driving positive change in education, training and practice.

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