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Wellbeing at the Bar Blog: Kathy Wong

Bar Council: World Mental Health Day 2018

2018 was going to be an exciting year for me. I resolved to start the new year, a new me.

Along with the new me, I started my new job at the Bar Council with a spiffing new project, Wellbeing at the Bar.  I felt like the luckiest bean as this is the project that I find the most relatable and personal. I felt that I could make real change.

One of my roles on this project is updating the content on the Wellbeing at the Bar website. Every month, as I edit the blogs submitted by our wonderful working group members about their personal experience or the changes that their organisation is making, I often reflect about the work that we as staff of Bar Council are currently doing for our own wellbeing. I hesitate to use the word often, but I do believe it is often the case that those who advocate passionately for wellbeing at work and at home are usually those who need to take their own advice the most. Or perhaps, I am the anomaly and I should take my own advice and everyone else is just fine.

On 19 February 2018, Bar Council signed the #TimeToChange pledge. We pledged to ensure that we support our own staff’s wellbeing as well as that of the profession. With this in mind, we have created a Wellbeing Policy, Volunteering Policy, Meeting policy and a range of physical and mental health and wellbeing-related initiative for our staff. Personally, I can say that this has been successful as I am now a regular Pilates goer and a horrible netball player. Prior to this, I had never played netball in my life and now I have starred in three whole games.

We have stuck to this pledge and in the spirit of this promise, on World Mental Health Day (10 October), we at Bar Council will be focusing on our mental health and raising awareness of mental health issues. We have come up with various fun activities such as:

  • Run along the river Thames (regardless of the weather)
  • Board Games and Arts & Craft hour
  • Visit to the British museum
  • Walk around Legal London
  • Virtual Coffee Morning

It is days like these that can prove to be helpful reminders to ponder on what we can do for our own mental health and for those around us. We believe that fostering a working environment that protects the physical and mental wellbeing of its people is good for our staff as well as for our organisation. 10 October and every other day in the year are all great days to start a conversation about mental health. It could be a discussion about your own mental health, the culture of mental health in the workplace or steps that we could take for mental health globally.

These conversations could happen over a slice of cake while playing Bananagrams during board game hour, or they might not. Even if no mental health revelations are made in the hour, these activities could prove invaluable in the future. For all we know, the pair playing Snakes and Ladders whilst sipping tea rather loudly might be strengthening their friendship and that could lead to one confiding in the other two weeks later.

We are aware that wellbeing is a huge culture change and meaningful change takes time and dedicated effort. This is the same reminder that I tell myself before each netball game. Surely, I can only get better. If the referee is not shouting at me for going the wrong way at the next game, I will consider that huge progress. In the same vein, removing the stigma around mental health and by creating awareness of mental health issues, we are slowly shifting the culture at the Bar Council and we are making positive progress.

Kathy Wong, Policy Assistant at Bar Council

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