'Talk to someone' – LawCare's chief executive on the need for lawyers to be more open about mental health
Elizabeth Rimmer explains why stigma is the main obstacle preventing improvements in wellbeing within the profession – and what can be done about it
Elizabeth Rimmer is chief executive of the charity LawCare, which promotes and supports good mental health in the legal community across the UK. This includes operating a confidential helpline, online chat and email support. LawCare is the official charity of the Women and Diveristy in Law Awards, which are hosted by The Global Legal Post and take place next Tuesday (21 March).
How does LawCare seek to improve mental health within the legal profession?
We promote mental health and wellbeing best practice in legal workplaces and drive culture change in education, training and practice. We raise awareness about mental health and why it matters in the context of legal work. We offer free, confidential, emotional support, peer support and resources to those working in the law by providing a safe place to talk without judgement to trained staff and volunteers who have first-hand experience of working in the law.
What are the main obstacles preventing improvements in mental health and wellbeing among lawyers?
The main obstacle is stigma. It is very hard for a legal professional to seek help if they are struggling for fear of being perceived as weak or not good enough, so people carry on in silence. Another significant obstacle is the lack of management training for those with responsibility for others. Legal professionals are generally not trained to support others and this hinders good supervision and the opportunity to build trusting relationships with colleagues so they will open up when they are struggling.
And how can they be overcome?
We can overcome these by talking more openly about mental health at work, provide those with management responsibilities with the training and support they need to supervise others effectively and recognise as a profession that people are the greatest asset in law and safeguarding their mental wellbeing must be a priority.
What advice would you give to someone suffering from mental health issues in the workplace?
Talk to someone – a friend, a colleague, your partner, a family member or LawCare. You may feel worried about talking to someone but sharing how you are feeling is the first step to help.
LawCare's Helpline (0800 279 6888) is available from Monday - Friday, 9am–5pm. Online chat operates via the LawCare website. For further details as well as instructions on how to email the support team go to lawcare.org.uk
Briefly describe your career to this point?
I started my working life as a solicitor, specialising in clinical negligence at Leigh Day. I then left legal practice to study for an MA in law and ethics, and found myself on a path that took me to the charity sector. I have been working in mental health charities for more than 20 years and joined LawCare in 2014.
What aspect of your job do you find most rewarding, and what do you find most challenging?
I love my job! The most rewarding part of it is truly the wonderful, kind, generous, inspiring people that I work with and volunteer with us. My faith in humankind is strong and restored every day. There are challenges – not enough people in the legal community know we are here and we operate on a very tight budget, with more resources we would have more capacity to provide more support and raise our profile.
Outside your firm, which legal professional do you most admire? Why?
Gareth Peirce for her transformative work in human rights and criminal justice.
Name one law you would you either abolish, reform or introduce? Why?
I would abolish the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Act 2020, I think Brexit is a disaster.
Are you a fan of self-help guides? If so, which one would you recommend above all others?
I don’t tend to read self help guides, but I would recommend a book called Being Mortal, by Atul Gawande. Although it is a meditation on end of life care, it explores wellbeing and quality of life, and what really matters to us all in our lives.
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