It was 2016 when Laurence Simons first took a look at the importance of mental wellbeing, with an articleon research from a doctorate student at the University of Queensland indicating that private practice lawyers experience the lowest levels of psychological and psychosomatic health, and have the highest instance of substance abuse of any professionals.
In 2018, with mindfulness and mental health being key buzzwords when creating a good workplace environment, we ask, where are we now?
One particular lawyer opening up the discussion is Lloyd Rees, a Knowledge Laywer in the Freshfields Global Transactions Knowledge Team, whose honest and open triptych of blog posts on his mental health and wellbeing caused an outpouring of support, from strangers relating to the themes in Rees’ work.
At his worst, Rees reports that he ‘felt totally numb. Everything was negative and all consuming. I wanted to just sleep and never wake up. The problem was I couldn’t really sleep at that point. I was stuck in a perpetual cycle of misery.’
Clearly fighting a battle with his mental health, the most striking thing that Rees was asked by a colleague as he tried to speak up about his struggles was:
‘You’ve got a great life – what have you got to be miserable about?’
It is easy to stand on the outside and look at law professionals as happy and lucky people, just because they’ve got a well-paid job and wear a suit. However, it is precisely these expectations that can cause unimaginable pressure and may result in individuals feeling anxious and depressed.
Rees describes a meeting in his office that in usual circumstances would not even raise his heart rate, but under the cloud of depression, he returned to his desk and ‘broke down in tears.’
All this, both Rees’ excellent blog posts and the huge reaction to it, demonstrates the importance of opening up about mental wellbeing, especially in the legal profession. It is easy to assume that someone else’s life is perfect, but on the inside, they may be at breaking point.
A medical professional is the best person to go to for advice if you are struggling, but we can offer everyone some tips on trying to keep your wellbeing in check while juggling your work/life balance:
- Keep active – just fifteen minutes of strenuous exercise can boost your immune system and releases feel-good endorphins into your system
- Eat well – three well-balanced meals a day is good for your physical health, as well as your mental health
- Be mindful – take the time to assess how you feel. Just pause for a moment, take a deep breath and try to look at the big picture
- Ask for help – it is a sign of strength to ask for help from a friend or colleague, and could lead to the exact support you need
At Laurence Simons, we use the four keys approach, balancing Head, Heart, Health and Business when we are working. If one of these essential components is out of kilter, then the others suffer as a result. By putting Health to the forefront of our working approach, we ensure that we are creating an environment where employees take care of themselves and know they can ask for help if they need to.
If you have any ideas on maintaining your mental health in the workplace, we’d love to know.
If you’d like to read Lloyd’s wonderful blog posts, you can find them here.