Lawyers feel mental wellbeing is important to their firms – survey

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Most employees at small and medium-sized law firms across Australia and New Zealand feel that their mental health and wellbeing is important to their firm, according to a survey from global law alliance Meritas.

The survey asked 200 employees at Meritas member firms about their work life, experiences with depression and anxiety, barriers to help-seeking behaviour, and attitudes towards and experiences with their employer's mental health assistance program.

The survey revealed that a majority of respondents felt the issue of wellbeing was important to their employer and that there was an “open door” policy or someone they could talk to at their workplace about personal and professional issues that affected their performance. Most respondents also said they found the demands of their work generally manageable.

An “open door” policy was particularly important given that 63% respondents said they had experienced depression, or they knew someone close to them in the workplace who had. Another 85% of respondents said either they or someone they knew in their workplace had experienced anxiety.

Additionally, most respondents said if their firm offered more dialogue, resources, training, and/or initiatives around wellbeing, they would be likely to use them.

“Stigma and a fear of reaching out remains a critical barrier that hinders many people from seeking help,” said Mary Digiglio, managing partner at Swaab and chair of the Meritas Australia and New Zealand regional committee. “We each need to take responsibility to look out for each other and continue to nurture a supportive and open culture to reduce the prevalence of mental illness in the legal profession.”