There are a lot of people around Australia having a really hard time at the moment, with lockdowns, home schooling, separation from family and friends, and the general uncertainty of COVID having a significant impact on mental health and wellbeing.
On top of the current environmental stresses, it’s been well documented that mental health is a major problem for the legal profession. A high-pressure environment combined with long hours and the intrinsic perfectionism of the job have contributed to many lawyers being prone to stress, burn-out and mental illness.
So, what can we do to help our colleagues and friends who might be struggling during this difficult time?
On Thursday, 9 September 2021, we mark R U Ok Day – a national day of action to remind us of the importance of having regular conversations with the people around us, about whether they’re ok and what we can do to support them. The key message of R U OK Day 2021 is “Are they really OK? Ask them today”.
Research has indicated that a positive workplace culture is an important factor in reducing the negative mental health effects on legal professionals and encouraging them to seek help when it’s needed.¹ It might seem awkward or difficult to ask a colleague how they’re doing, but a thoughtful check-in or show of support can make a big difference to someone who feels stressed, overwhelmed or alone.
When you’re ready to reach out to someone to ask if they’re ok:
- make sure you’re in the right headspace and you’re prepared to listen
- try to approach the conversation naturally with open questions and without judgment
- encourage action and the availability of professional support
- remember that your role is not to try to “fix” someone’s problems but to offer genuine care
- continue to check in with them after the initial conversation.
For more information and resources to help you in having supportive conversations, go to www.ruok.org.au
If you or anyone you know needs help, contact any of the organisations below. If a life is in danger, call 000.
- Lifeline on 13 11 14
- Beyond Blue on 1300 22 46 36
- Headspace on 1800 650 890
- Kids Helpline on 1800 551 800
¹ Australian & New Zealand Meritas Wellness Survey 2019
Article by: Rebecca Ward, Member of the ACC Diversity, Equality and Inclusion Committee and Secretary of the ACC Victoria Division
ACC Australia is committed to promoting a diverse and inclusive in-house profession and has created the Diversity, Equality and Inclusion (DEI) Special Interest Group. If you are interested in participating in the special interest group or contributing ideas, please contact email@example.com.