Introducing student wellbeing resources
As a student or pupil, you face challenges both in your work and personal life outside work or studying.
Many of you will be young adults in ‘role transition’. In your personal life, you may be forming or indeed breaking relationships, moving to a new house, starting a family etc. and a pupil barrister’s life at work will tend to be very busy and high pressured, with lots of deadlines and a requirement to learn on the job (and very quickly) – it is effectively a year-long interview.
The most common issues pupils face include dealing with being the most vulnerable and of the lowest seniority in chambers. Working in a situation where there are constant high expectations can also mean you internalise and don’t realise that you are suffering from an eating disorder or being bullied, for example. It is important that you take the time to recognise the situation you are in, that it is not your fault and that there are practical ways of dealing with your situation, these can include calling the Bar Council, speaking to another member of chambers or your Inn.
We also recognise the unique challenges faced by those still applying for pupillage. Again, you need to recognise that the process of applying for pupillage (getting/not getting an interview/waiting to hear/being rejected) can adversely impact on your wellbeing. Like Pupils, you need to take time to recognise the situation you are in and the practical steps you can take to help yourself if you develop a wellbeing problem.
Most of us experience positive mental health and wellbeing most of the time, but many of us experience short lived or more prolonged spells of mental ill health or poor wellbeing from time to time for a variety of reasons.
It’s important to recognise when this happens to us and when this happens to fellow students, pupils and colleagues so that we feel able to take steps to address them and do our best at work.
The Health and Safety Executive HSE gives a good distinction between excessive pressure within available resources and the resulting stress. It identifies six different sources of pressure not just excessive demands but also interpersonal conflict, role transitions, etc. (see http://www.hse.gov.uk/stress/furtheradvice/whatisstress.htm)
The wellbeing resources below can be split into personal wellbeing issues, such as stress and anxiety, substance abuse etc. and those triggered by problems in the workplace potentially pertinent to pupils e.g. bullying, overwhelmed by work etc. Resources are shown in alphabetical order.
- Stress and Anxiety – In addition to the resource, take a look at this short film which explains stress and how to address it at a physiological level, a wellbeing level and at an internal psychological level.
- Panic Attacks – See the resource on panic attacks with helpful suggestions on dealing with this condition.
- Low Mood and Depression – See the resource
- Losing Sleep – See the resource
- Self-Harm – See the resource
- Eating Disorders – See the resource
- Substance Abuse (or Addictions) – See resource
Problems at Work
Problems at work are not only caused by too many demands, but can also be due to a lack of control, a lack of support, your changing role, change in general and poor relationships.
- Overwhelmed by Work – see resource
- Mistakes at Work – see resource
- Financial Stress – see resource
- Performance Anxiety – particularly in relation to interviews and court appearances, see resource
- Perfectionism – see resource
- Relationship Problems at Work – see resource on Bullying
How to talk to someone about your wellbeing issue
- Find your confidant – choose the person you feel most comfortable opening up to. It does not have to be someone within Chambers or your place of work. Some people might prefer to talk to someone that does not know them or their situation.
- Good timing – try to find a time that suits you both, and when you can discuss it privately. Take into account any looming deadlines, or potential conflicts in your schedules.
- Prepare for others’ reactions – This is a difficult conversation to have. People may be pleased that you feel comfortable enough to open up, but they may also be shocked, upset or dismissive. Try and give people the time to process it, as they may be worried about the impact of their words and actions on you going forward.
So, I know I may have a problem. Now what?
As well as speaking to someone you trust about this issue, it is important that you also seek professional support and help as soon as possible.
Some avenues to consider are:
- Your GP
- Self-Help Courses – your GP may refer you to self-help courses. Public peer to peer support forums available to discuss your issues and meet others who have experienced the same challenges.
- Online support – You may like to approach some of the Peer support groups online. This can be a good way to maintain your anonymity, while still getting the help you need.
- Books – read up about your condition
How to start a conversation with a fellow student or pupil you suspect has a wellbeing issue
- Think – before you approach them, think. Do not assume, but think of kind things you will say so that you are not caught off-guard if they are defensive. Remember that they colleague may be dealing with a number of stressful factors, and the last thing you want to do is add to their burden with any judgment. Also think whether you are the right person to be having that conversation with them – is it your place, or is there someone more appropriate who knows them better or can relate in a more effective way?
- Timing – try to find a time that suits you both, and when you can discuss it privately. Also consider their schedule, and any looming deadlines.
- Be patient – they may not feel comfortable opening up from the outset. Do bear in mind that this might be the first time they have to confront their issue, so be patient.
Please also refer to the Help a Colleague section on this website.
Thank you to the Charlie Waller Memorial Trust for providing input in the development of these resources.
The Charlie Waller Memorial Trust (CWMT) was set up in 1997 in memory of Charlie Waller, a young man who took his own life whilst suffering from depression. CWMT raises awareness of depression and fights stigma, provides training to schools, universities, workplaces, GPs and nurses, and encourages those who may be depressed to seek help. Visit www.cwmt.org.uk for further information.