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Looking after mental health and wellbeing in the legal industry
We all have a role to play in helping to identify mental health concerns and to create an environment that promotes wellbeing and encourages people to speak up and seek help. Law firms in particular have a responsibility to lead, influence and contribute to destigmatising mental health concerns across the legal profession.
At King & Wood Mallesons (KWM) we have implemented four initiatives which are designed to support a psychologically healthy workplace and strengthen our commitment to preventing, identifying, supporting and assisting rehabilitation.
Our wellbeing officer program aims to help with prevention and early identification of mental illness, and to facilitate an environment that encourages people to seek support. The firm has a number of Wellbeing Officers in each office, practice group and business service that act as a trained point of contact, similar to First Aid officers. They are encouraged to watch out for others, help with identifying potential issues and to facilitate our people to find support. The role of a Wellbeing Officer is to be a ‘spotter’ and to connect people with support and resources. By having this dedicated program we are destigmatising mental illness and making it as prominent in the workplace as physical wellbeing.
Managing mental health in the workplace training:
The prevalence of mental illness in the legal profession related to stress, depression and anxiety, highlights the importance of early identification. As such, it is important for Human Resources (HR) staff to be equipped with the skills to recognise and manage mental health issues. The HR staff at KWM have completed Mental Health First Aid training and/or Recognising Mental Health & Managing Mental Health in the Workplace workshop. The training enables HR staff to recognise when someone requires help and provides a framework to assist with managing mental health concerns in the workplace.
To further support the prevention and early intervention of mental health issues KWM has partnered with a psychological rehabilitation provider to deliver best practice support for its people. The psychological rehabilitation provider works closely with HR staff, the supervisor/ manager, the employee, and the relevant treating practitioners to provide practical adjustment and recovery plans for modified work or return to work strategies, treatment and recommendations.
TJMF Psychological Wellbeing: Best Practice Guidelines for the Legal Profession:
The Tristan Jepson Memorial Foundation (TJMF) aims to decrease work related psychological ill-health in the legal community and to promote workplace psychological health and safety. The Foundation researched and launched the TJMF Psychological Wellbeing: Best Practice Guidelines for the Legal Profession which promote psychologically healthy workplaces and are intended to support firms to raise awareness of mental health issues, and to understand the initiatives and methods of management that assist in the creation of and maintenance of psychologically and supportive workplaces. KWM is a founding signatory of the Guidelines and encourages other organisations to sign up to the Guidelines – tjmf.org.au
Psychological wellbeing is aligned with physical wellbeing and so KWM adopts a holistic approach to health which includes education, self-care strategies, support and resources. This encompasses gym memberships, health checks, seminars, awareness campaigns and a confidential 24/7 Employee Assistance Program. KWM also supports flexible and agile working arrangements which enables people to work in a more adaptable way varying their location or work hours to accommodate social, family or personal commitments.
It is important to ensure the mental health conversation remains constant, active and engaging. KWM aims to create a culture where staff feel safe to speak up and seek help early; this helps staff stay connected and engaged in their work.