Published: 13 September 2018
Image courtesy BottledSnail Productions
Is the lawyer you work alongside today OK?
Why it’s important to support RUOK Day
Mental health is a major problem within the legal profession in Australia.
According to a survey of 1174 of the barristers within New South Wales conducted in 2014, more than one third said they were suffering from depression.
The severity of the problem within the legal profession was highlighted by the tragic death of a promising young lawyer who took his own life, and which led to the foundation of the Tristan Jepson Memorial Foundation to encourage both awareness of mental issues and to force a cultural change within the profession.
As a result of this work, a set of best practice guidelines for the legal profession has been issued. According to these guidelines, a psychologically safe and healthy workplace is one where its leaders protect and promote the mental well-being of all staff; and actively work to prevent harm which is often caused by negligent or reckless acts.
The guidelines encourage staff to feel confident that is it safe to speak up, and that neither the management nor other staff will embarrass, reject or punish someone for coming forward.
The extent of the problem within the profession is revealed by the stats.
According to the Foundation, one-third of lawyers and one in five barristers suffer disability and distress due to depression, and they are more likely to self-medicate with alcohol than seek help.
There is a high rate of suicide among lawyers, and young lawyers especially feel vulnerable.
Finally, four out of five disciplinary matters involving lawyers have an underlying mental health issue.
Ryan Carlisle Thomas is proud to support the cause to combat mental illness in the law through its sponsorship and involvement in the remarkable BottledSnail Productions (https://www.bottledsnail.com). Operated entirely by volunteers drawn from the legal community within Victoria, the organisation offers a creative outlet for the artistic talents of lawyers and is a useful counter-balance to the stress of their professional careers
Since it was formed in 2013, the organisation has involved more than 350 legal professionals in creative projects ranging from full-scale theatre productions to lunchtime concerts, and has raised more than $45,000 for charity.
It is a useful focus of a day like R U OK? Day that it helps bring attention to all aspects of mental health, even among professions like that of the law that you might not associate with the issue.
It reminds us that it is OK to ask the person you work alongside all day if they are in fact, OK.
A copy of the best practice guidelines can be found here http://www.tjmf.org.au.