Talking About Mental Health
Identifying and Managing Mental Health Issues in this ‘New Normal’
Mental health issues affect one in six workers in the UK and its prominence has been heightened due to ongoing uncertainties. With so many people now having to work remotely and in isolation, feelings of anxiety and worry can become more prevalent.
Conveyancing Paralegal Erin Duffy joins us for today’s blog talking all about the topic of mental health and wellbeing. Together we can break the stigma.
What do the signs look like?
Within the last few years, we have seen many celebrity faces including the likes of Robin Williams, Caroline Flack, Chester Bennington, Keith Flint, and Avicii all taking their own life due to mental health. This is just a handful of names, but the reality is that suicide affects thousands of people in the UK and that fact alone is enough to highlight the seriousness of mental health.
Mental health can impact around 1 in 4 people, and in this current climate of restrictions, it would seem everyone is suffering in one way or another – whether that’s with working from home, home schooling or simply feeling lonely.
People are feeling both angry and worried and it’s not uncommon to become short-tempered, more agitated and more frustrated in day-to-day life. Taking this into consideration, it is important for us, colleagues, friends and family, to see the key signs that a person may be struggling with mental health. Depression and anxiety come in all shapes and sizes. It can be isolating yourself from people, feeling constantly exhausted but struggling with sleep, a lack of motivation, comfort eating, not eating at all, excessive exercise, not exercising at all, excessive cleaning to not cleaning at all.
The effects present themselves in different manners and there is no ‘one size fits all’. I personally find myself cleaning the tiles with a toothbrush when I feel stressed, just to feel an element of control in my life. Mental health is a topic that is extremely important to me as I have lost friends and family to suicide and that automatically leads to that question ‘could I have done more?’ - However, the answer is no.
A key signal that someone is suffering with mental health is reluctance to talk to people so as not to burden others with your problems. That is the factor that no one talks about it. The truth is, people do care and we want to help, however overcoming that mental barrier of not wanting to ‘burden’ people is not as easy as it sounds. It will take time and unfortunately not everyone has that time left in them.
Mental Health Within the Legal Industry
The pressure surrounding those working in the legal industry can be extremely difficult to manage on the whole. Young professionals in particular are faced with fear and anxiety around their legal careers at what is a turbulent time for firms. Will they get that career breakthrough they need when some firms are sceptical of taking on new staff due to the uncertainty of the future?
Family departments have seen a spike in divorce enquiries throughout the pandemic as well as child custody matters and domestic violence cases, while criminal solicitors are adapting to new ways of dealing with clients in what is normally a very hands on area of law. In addition, private client professionals are facing record numbers of instructions through fear of passing from Covid and conveyancers…well, conveyancers have had a really tough time.
Conveyancing professionals might attest to the fact that at the moment it feels like you are in a canoe, paddling upstream when the current is going 100mph downstream! The industry has been impacted by external factors such as delays to mortgage offers, searches and the back log from last year when the housing market closed altogether, not to mention the upcoming stamp duty deadline.
However, it is important to take a step back and give ourselves some credit and remember we are human and are also facing this pandemic like everyone else. Fortunately for us, we have had brilliant support from the firm and from our colleagues at every level. We are equipped to work from home and that’s largely due to the investment that the firm has made into technology even before the pandemic hit. Communication is key and it’s important to operate an open door policy that gives staff the confidence to raise any issues with regards to how they’re feeling.
Adjusting to a New Normal
We are naturally sociable creatures, from sharing the occasional office joke to hugging each other as a standard greeting to having a few drinks with our mates at the pub. We’ve had to adapt to working from home, which was a concept that everyone feared however most now prefer. The perks of working from home are often discussed, for example saving money and time from travelling, being able to carry out everyday tasks such as drawing the vacuum cleaner over, putting a wash on or being in the house to catch the post before it ends up on the roof two doors down.
However, it does also come with drawbacks, including living through home renovations, finding the space for a home office and having to find a space to relax and do your home workouts all in one. Normally our homes are the place to relax and wind down from work but with it now being our place of work it is important to set yourself boundaries and rules.
Create a designated workspace, whether this be in a spare room or a dining room. Continue to get up at a reasonable time as much as you can (everyone deserves the occasional lie in until 8:55am) and make time for lunch. Food is fuel and keeps your brain stimulated. Talk to your work colleagues via video call. We are lucky here at Bell Lamb & Joynson because we speak to each other on a daily basis, check in on each other and we act as sounding boards for each other when we need it the most.