06 Mental Health Workplace stress and culture sees the law profession struggle with mental health

Myriad research finds that lawyers are highly likely to have issues with their mental health and wellbeing, including 78% stating their employer needs to do more to help.

Stress is contributing to mental health issues in law firms

The Junior Lawyers Division Resilience and Wellbeing Survey 2019 found that 48% of junior lawyers experienced mental ill-health in the six months prior to the survey – an increase of 10 percentage points from their 2018 survey. Only 19% reported that their employer was aware of their issue. Worryingly, 14% reported that they had suicidal thoughts, with men being more likely to say so than women.

While almost half of respondents stated that their employer provided help, guidance or support in relation to their mental health, 78% said they believed their employer could do more. According to 2016 research by Dr Rebecca Michalak, lawyers have significantly lower levels of psychological and psychosomatic health wellbeing compared to other professionals.

And yet, the 1974 Health and Safety at Work Act emphasises the responsibilities that employers have to look after the mental health of their employees. With 2019 data from LawCare suggesting that the top three issues lawyers face include stress (26%), bullying (12%) and depression (12%), these could be crucial areas for employers to focus on for a healthier work environment. Informative pieces by organisations such as the City Mental Health Alliance (CMHA), LawCare, the Law Society and the Bar Standards Board can help both employers and employees achieve better mental health in law firms.

Reported mental ill-health in law firms

One of the biggest barriers to creating truly diverse and inclusive companies is workplace culture. When it comes to improving employees’ mental health, companies would do well to start there.

Chikere Igbokwe

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