11 October 2019

Profession marks mental health day

Seventeen signed Mindful Business Charter on yesterday's World Mental Health Day, while Freshfields meets target for its first-aider programme.


On yesterday’s World Mental Health day and, one year since the launch of the Mindful Business Charter (MBC), 17 more organisations adopted the Charter's pledge to change avoidable working practices that can affect mental health and wellbeing.

New cohort

Alongside Barclays and Addleshaw Goddard, Pinsent Masons developed the initiative which initially saw financial services businesses and law firms collaborate to follow a set of principles centred on improved communication, respect for rest periods and considerate delegation of tasks. The new cohort of 17 more organisations joined the 21 organisations that are already implementing the charter. All of these organisations make a commitment to promote a culture of openness about mental wellbeing, ensure responsible business is included as an area of assessment during significant procurement processes and drive forward the actions and necessary change in support of the principles of the charter and which thereby seek to eradicate unnecessary causes of workplace stress and pressure. Richard Foley, senior partner of Pinsent Masons, said “For too long professionals across many industries have just accepted pressure and stress as part and parcel of the job. The charter challenges that.” Mr Foley explained, “It is really important that we have developed our own methodology for embedding the Charter in our business.” Four headings areas are set out: openness and respect, respecting rest periods, smart meetings, and, emails and mindful delegation.

Signatories comment

A number of the new signatories commented on the charter. Jeremy Cohen, ceo for Dentons in the UK and Middle East, explained the charter “builds on our existing health and well-being programme 'My Healthy Balance', which enables everyone to be proactive about their physical and mental health by providing accessible, flexible support which suits their needs. The Charter also shows the good work that can be accomplished when collaborating with other organisations, including some of our clients, to address common challenges.” Jonathan Hoey, partner and head of banking and lender services at UK law firm TLT, said “Lawyers face particularly high levels of stress in their jobs, but much of this can be avoided if we find ways of working well together and take responsibility for mental health and wellbeing at an individual and firm level.” Jeremy Shebson, managing partner, HFW said, “We recognise that legal services can be a high stress industry, and that in continuing to provide an outstanding service to our clients, there will be times when long hours and stress cannot be avoided. But we want this to be the exception, rather than the rule.”

Freshfields meets target

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer says it has met its target to provide mental health training to  one in 25 of its people. The ‘mental health first aid programme’ was rolled out following a trial in 2017, and has now trained over 200 people across the firm. The programme is part of the firm’s commitment to creating a supportive and inclusive workplace. The target was set on Mental Health Awareness Day 2018 and since then the firm has trained people across all regions including the US, the UAE, Europe, the UK and Asia. The training gives first aiders the skills to spot the signs of mental distress, support their colleagues and also break down the stigma attached to mental health. The firm is now rolling out a bespoke programme based on mental health first aid skills, across its Continental Europe offices which will be available in four separate languages. Global MHFA programme lead and instructor Kristina Adey-Davies said “I am delighted we now have one in 25 of us trained across our global network, but the real impact of the programme is that more of us are better attuned to spotting changes in our colleagues who may be struggling, and more confident in how to support them to the professional help they may need”

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