I started this series a year ago with the aim of destigmatising mental health issues and normalising conversations about mental health in our profession.
It’s a work in progress, but feedback I’ve received and conversations I’ve been having indicate that these articles are resonating and we’re on the right track.
23 – 29 September is Mental Health Awareness Week (MHAW). Mental health is something we need to think about every day, not just during MHAW, but MHAW provides a great opportunity for us to pause and reflect on the state of our own mental health and of those around us.
I’ve had particular cause to reflect on my own mental health recently. A few weeks ago, I fell apart. It wasn’t work-related but it affected my ability to work. I had panic attacks (omg, hideous) and some days I couldn’t see my computer screen because I was crying too much. Fortunately, I work in an environment where I could tell my colleagues without fear of judgement or negative repercussion. They were amazing. They listened, shared my workload, regularly checked in on me, and made it clear that my health and recovery were far more important than any work matter.
Not everyone has this. I don’t know how people get through tough times while trying to work in an unsupportive environment.
I want to echo Henry’s key message about building a workplace culture, nay a profession, where we can admit to each other if we’re struggling. A lot of us became lawyers to help people. We can start by helping each other. There are not many work matters that are more important than someone’s health.
If I’m to throw down a gauntlet this MHAW, it is to do one thing (at least) to help yourself or someone at work. It doesn’t have to be big, it doesn’t have to be perfect, and it doesn’t have to be led by senior management. Don’t over-think this. It can be as simple as asking a colleague if they’re okay. If they’re not, suggest a walk, a talk, a coffee. If they want to talk, listen. If they need help, help them get it. Regularly check in on them. If you’re the one struggling, tell someone.
We’re not weak for having problems or needing help. We’re strong for admitting we do.
It’s okay if you fall apart sometimes.
Tacos fall apart and we still love them.
Sarah Taylor is the co-ordinator of this series, a senior lawyer, and the Director of Client Solutions at LOD NZ, a law firm focused on the success and wellbeing of lawyers. If you’d like to contribute to this series, please contact Sarah: firstname.lastname@example.org