By Sarah Taylor
When I was first approached about writing this article, I was asked to think about what Mental Health Awareness Week (MHAW) means to me and what I could suggest to other lawyers. My initial thoughts were, “Actually, it doesn’t really mean much to me,” and “Who am I to give advice to others when I can barely manage my own mental health?”.
But since then, I’ve thought deeper about MHAW, looked at the various resources available, and received a lot of amazing messages in support of my article in this month’s LawTalk (Talking about mental health).
I already do quite a bit to look after my mental health (meditate, run, laugh a lot, do creative stuff, spend lots of time outside, eat well, prioritise family-time …) but despite regular mental (and physical) health maintenance, I still feel mentally-not-very-well at times.
I’m not going to give out advice about what others should do to help their mental health, but here are some extra things I’m going to do this week:
- take a day off work to build forts and throw stones in the ocean with my kids
- disable work emails from my phone
- make an appointment with a professional to talk about my inability to switch off and increasing levels of anxiety and insomnia
- go for a run in the bush
- write a poem or paint (like a kid would)
- be kinder to myself and stop staring at all the not-done things on my to do list (ideally, I’d like to throw my list away, but that’s a step too far at this stage)
- do something nice for a colleague who’s been going through a tough time recently.
I’m also going to do some further work with my colleagues to explore ways to explicitly incorporate wellbeing into our firm’s vision and mission (yeah!) and create some “smart” goals that we can hold and measure ourselves against in this respect (I am so excited by this).
Ideally mental health is something we should think about every day, not just this week. But this week could be the week to start some new habits (or break some old ones) to help improve your (or someone else’s) mental health.
So, despite my initial reaction, I think MHAW is incredibly important and it’s a great opportunity to:
- check-in with ourselves about the current state of our mental health
- check-in with loved ones, colleagues and buddies to see how’re their doing
- think about: what is one thing you could do this week to help:
- - improve your wellbeing?
- - someone else?
- - create or maintain a safe and supportive work environment?
- - destigmatise mental health issues and normalise conversations about them?
If you want some ideas about what you could do, check out some of the awesome resources available: www.mhaw.org.nz; www.mentalhealth.org.nz. Start small. You don’t have to save the world, but you could help one person (including yourself).
Kia kaha, kia maia, kia manawanui.
Sarah Taylor is the Director of Business Development at lexvoco. If you’d like to contribute to her ongoing mental health series in LawTalk or have a topic you’d like covered, please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org