Lawyers are a pretty up front bunch, and their feelings were made clear in a recent study by UNSW into lawyers’ perspectives on mental health & wellbeing programs in their firms. It’s really worth a read, providing an unvarnished view of how lawyers feel their firms are looking after their mental wellbeing.
“(Firms are) talking the talk…but I think the problems are systemic and will not be fixed by vague employee assistance programs and ‘wellness’ initiatives,” said one respondent, a 32 year old female solicitor in a large firm.
While I applaud firms for making an effort to address mental illness, these initiatives just don’t seem to be effective when they’re ‘bolted on’. They’re regarded as an optional extra that you might take up if you’re not busy, or not committed to the ‘real work’. And frankly, who’s going to admit that?
There is of course an alternative. I believe the best way to embed good mental health practices into an organisation is to equip leaders with the skills to monitor the mental health of their team members and adjust the work intensity or structure when the early warning signs appear.
I’m not saying we train our leaders to be psychologists or counsellors. I’m saying let’s equip them to spot the danger signs and act appropriately before harm comes to the individual and the organisation.