Mental Health Awareness Week: Wellbeing at the Bar
Everyone at some point in their lives will experience low points and challenges. The stigma associated with mental health is unjust because poor health can occur in any part of our body and we don’t have the same negative associations with a broken leg or arm after a fall!
As barristers we work with our brains, so normalizing mental good health, associated with optimizing our performance and understanding the difference that pressure and stress can have on our brain and functioning, has been a key message with the work and resources our Working Group has created. (see Dr Bill Mitchell)
Being a point of contact listed on the WATB website has enabled me and many of our Working Group members to signpost the profession – whether clerks, Heads of Chambers or concerned colleagues – to a step-by-step process using the materials. From encouragement and guidance on how to ‘have’ the conversation with someone you’re concerned about, to appreciating the problem and symptoms that a person has reported via the fact sheets. Acceptance, insight and practical solutions via the info and awareness on the website with support at the centre was reported to me as a ‘game changer’ for those experiencing and supporting others with challenges. Our work has also helped Heads of Chambers and clerks with ethical considerations and concerns in understanding how to support or when to report professional conduct issues from behavioural actions. This has improved dialogue and the fears that many have had about confronting issues with members or reporting reasonable adjustments required from a barrister to manage their work, life and practice development.
Building a resilient Bar and retaining the quality, excellence and diversity of our collegiate group is vital to the future of our profession. The policies developed as good practice, led and shared by Specialist Bar Associations, the Inns, and the Circuits and shared in the ‘policy and practice’ section of the Wellbeing at the Bar website have helped many sets of chambers to adopt these policies, adapt their working practices, evaluate the impact of the working lives of their practitioners and consider supportive professional solutions. Continuing Education & Training programs within the profession now include greater awareness within practice management of the responsibilities of sleep, diet, exercise and recovery for the resilient lawyer to ‘survive and thrive’ amongst the reality of the ‘trials and tribulations’ of life at the Bar.
Olympians ensure their mental & physical physique is at peak performance and business acumen have long used the knowledge and skills of psychology within human behaviour and traits for leadership and management to understand efficacy and success; so drawing upon medical science, sharing life experiences and improving our health, wellbeing and performance for positive mental health should be celebrated by everyone every day. Please embrace Mental Health Awareness Week to self-reflect, support the initiatives and encourage others to do so.
Rachel Spearing, Co-Founder and Chair of the Wellbeing at the Bar Working Group.