Today's blog article has kindly been provided by Wynne-Jones IP and is a write-up of the event held they hosted jointly with the UK IPO during Mental Health Awareness week. The article contains practical tips on what you can to do improve your mental health, and explains what IP practitioners who attended the event have pledged to do to achieve a healthier work-life balance. Wynne-Jones IP is one of our Charter signatories.
"The IP profession can often prove to be stressful. Long days, complex legal issues, client-based challenges, and working to strict deadlines can often take its toll on the mental health of attorneys and support staff in this environment.
As methodical people who aim to find specific solutions to complex issues, it can be hard to accept when you are faced with a problem which simply can’t be fixed with logic. This often results in individuals becoming insular and suffering with issues such as anxiety, stress, and depression privately.
At Wynne-Jones IP, we recognise that it can be hard to open up about the private battles you may be facing and discuss your inner thoughts.
But just remember – you’re not alone.
In the spirit of supporting our peers in the IP profession, we recently held a very successful Mental Health Awareness Week event in conjunction with IP Inclusive and the IPO, which we fittingly titled: Get Off That Hamster Wheel! Perspectives on stress management for a better work/life balance.
The session, held on 11th May 2017 addressed the stigmas and common misconceptions surrounding mental health issues.
We welcomed a host of prestigious speakers on the day, who all spoke out about the importance of supporting those with mental health concerns, and recognising it to help alter attitudes in the workplace.
Tim Moss, Chief Executive Officer and Controller General of the UK’s Intellectual Property Office (IPO), opened the talk with an insightful comment about how far the profession has progressed in openly discussing mental health.
As often recognised, IP professionals can bottle up the stresses associated with the job for fear of seeming ineffective in their roles, weak, or simply a failure.
Thanks to events like this, it encourages people not to suffer in silence, but to open up to their colleagues about their daily struggles, and to accept their mental illness for what it is – an illness, for which IP professionals should receive support to cope with in a stigma-free environment.
Today's blog article has kindly been written by Neelum Dass and is a write-up of an excellent event held as part of Mental Health Awareness week. It is full of practical tips on what you can to do help yourself and others with mental health issues. Neelum is an associate in the Commercial IP/IT team of Bristows, one of our Charter signatories.
Neelum writes: "IP Inclusive and Kilburn & Strode recently hosted the talk “Surviving or Thriving” focussed on mental health in the work place. The speakers were:
The talk was structured as a Q&A session with three key themes.
1. Why talking about mental health is important
Poor mental health can easily lead to loss of balance in life which in turn could result in serious physical and mental problems such as depression or anxiety. Legal professionals are particularly vulnerable to stress and exhaustion given the high-pressure, demanding nature of their jobs. Initiatives like Mental Health Awareness Week are important because they put psychological health on the corporate agenda in an effort to break the stigma. For example, there is a widespread belief that a person with mental health issues is weak. On the contrary, Dr Mitchell considers that those who have struggled with this are actually more self-aware and conscious of what they need to do to achieve and maintain good health.
2. What you can do to help yourself
Dr Mitchell sees more lawyers than other professionals and suggested that perhaps this is because they are paid to identify risks and focus on what happens when things go wrong. The speakers offered practical tips to help manage mental health, for example, they encouraged people to access help at an early stage when feeling overwhelmed or exhausted. Something as simple as a good conversation early on could prevent someone from going down the wrong path.
This is a question I addressed at our Mental Health Awareness Week event in Newport last night.
Unfortunately, there are still people who think that suffering from mental illness – even something relatively common like depression or anxiety – makes you a nutter, or a malingerer, or (perhaps most dangerous of all) simply not up to the job.
And in this high-powered, high-flying profession of ours, it’s tempting to think that IP simply is a stressful environment, so if you can’t take the pressure, perhaps you shouldn’t be here.
Yet by taking that line, we risk rejecting or side-lining many talented people. And those who stay are often miserable or afraid: afraid of weakness; afraid of failure. So they’re less productive than they should be. And we lose valuable time through absenteeism, or indeed “presenteeism”, when people spend inordinately long hours in the workplace merely to show their commitment rather than to achieve anything extra.
That’s an unhealthy, and divisive, way of working.
[Excerpt from the Not-so-Secret Diary of a certain patent attorney]
22nd April 2016, 11pm
You, better than anyone, know how I struggle with the ups and downs. The bright whites and the dark gulleys. The high contrast, super-saturated, amazing technicolour dream world and the flat monochrome wash that sometimes rolls in.
You know there are good days, creative and buzzing, when I set up task forces and draft proposals, times when I genuinely believe I could rule the world if given the opportunity, or at least a small chartered institute. And then the bad days, miserable and anxious and so, so tired, when my brain goes over and over the things I’ve been doing and those I haven’t been doing but should have, and denounces them all as hideous failures. Days when the CIPA stationery cupboard seems an attractive place to spend the rest of my life, with the door locked, hoping nobody finds me ever again. You know that on the bad days, Imposter Syndrome doesn’t even start to describe the self-doubt, the conviction that people see me for the weak, incompetent and generally unpleasant person I am.
Ahead of Mental Health Awareness Week 2017, CIPA's Chief Executive, Lee Davies, discusses the support that professional bodies can provide for their members, and reminds us of the LawCare helpline available to CIPA members and other legal professionals.
Lee writes: "The media focus on the footballer Aaron Lennon is a vivid reminder, if we should need one, that providing support for those who face living and working with mental health issues is a challenge for us all. No profession is immune. We all experience increasing demands on our time at work and at home, and it seems that we accept that anxiety, stress and depression are the price we have to pay for leading successful working lives.
All of us, at different points in our lives, will need support. If we are fortunate, we will have around us a network of family and friends who can help us when we need help most. That does not mean that we are confronting a serious mental health issue. This year, however, Mental Health Awareness Week reminds us that the key question is not why so many people are living with mental health problems, but why too few of us are thriving with good mental health?
Why should this matter to a professional body like CIPA? Surely it is up to CIPA’s members to thrive in the fast-moving world of intellectual property law? What could a membership organisation offer that would lend itself to the needs of those who, rather than thrive in this world, are struggling to survive in it? My response to questions such as these is a simple one. A professional body that does not take seriously the challenge of supporting its members as individuals when they need it most will not thrive itself, indeed it may not survive.
I believe that, at CIPA, we do take the mental health and wellbeing of our members seriously. We do have in place a great sense of community and we do encourage our members to network outside of the immediacy of the workplace. Creating an atmosphere of friendship and trust which extends beyond an individual firm or industrial department is one of the ways we can create the conditions for good mental health within a profession. This will not, however, provide the critical safety net we all need when times are really tough.
We are pleased to announce another IP Inclusive event taking place during Mental Health Awareness Week. Kilburn & Strode, supporter of IP Inclusive and signatory of the IP Inclusive Charter for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, is running an event on mental health at their London office on 11th May 2017. The event begins at 17:30, and comprises a panel discussion and Q&A session, followed by networking and refreshments at 19:00.
The event will cover what steps we can each take to thrive, rather than just survive, by looking after our mental health and building resilience to cope with the demands of life. The event is open to everyone working in IP, including fee earners and support staff. Kilburn & Strode encourages as many IP professionals to attend and hopefully take back insights and learning to their places of work. To reserve your place at the event, please sign-up here.
Mental Health Awareness Week is taking place from 8th to 14th May 2017 and, as previously mentioned here, IP Inclusive is running events during this week. Wynne-Jones IP and the UK Intellectual Property Office (UK IPO), both supporters of IP Inclusive and signatories of the IP Inclusive Charter for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, are jointly running an event on mental health at the UK IPO in Newport (Wales) on 11th May 2017. For more information, see the event poster below, and head here to book your space at the event. We hope many of you will be able to join this event to explore this important topic.
Check this blog regularly to hear about other events in this series. (See here for the event taking place in Leeds). If you are organising your own event for Mental Health Awareness Week, please let us know and we'll add it to this blog.
As previously mentioned on this blog, this year's Mental Health Awareness Week is from 8th to 14th May 2017. HGF Limited, supporter of IP Inclusive and signatory of the IP Inclusive Charter for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, is running an event on mental health at their Leeds office on 10th May 2017. For more information, see the event poster below. We hope many of you will be able to join HGF's event to explore this important topic.
Check this blog regularly to hear about other events in this series. If you are organising your own event for Mental Health Awareness Week, please let us know and we'll add it to our blog.
This year, Mental Health Awareness Week is from 8th to 14th May. Please join one of our IP Inclusive events to explore this important topic and help make things better for the IP professionals of the future.
Under the banner “Surviving or Thriving?”, Mental Health Awareness Week 2017 is looking at mental health from a new angle. Rather than asking why so many people are living with problems, the aim is to uncover why too few of us are thriving with good mental health.
The charity co-ordinating this initiative, the Mental Health Foundation, wants to explore the sensitive issue of how people struggle to cope with an increasingly hectic and complex life, and what steps we can take to build resilience and look after our mental health.
At IP Inclusive, we thought these would be excellent themes to address in the context of the IP professions. IP can provide a rich and rewarding career, of course, but it can also be a high pressure environment, with the stress of working to deadlines, budgets and billing targets; business development challenges; and of course the additional pressures that come from working with high-flying colleagues: the threat of competition and the fear of failure.
What can we do in the IP professions to help one another to thrive rather than survive? How can we adapt our working practices to ensure everyone reaches their full potential without needing to suffer anxiety, depression or other mental health problems? How do we increase awareness and understanding of these issues, and stop them being swept under the carpet in the pursuit of perfection?
During Mental Health Awareness Week 2017 we’re hoping to organise a set of events around the country, focusing on mental well-being for IP professionals. Each will include one or two speakers, a panel discussion with – hopefully – a chance for audience members to ask questions and share experiences if they wish; and some informal networking with refreshments.
These events will be open to all IP professionals. That means not only the fee earners but also the professionals who work with them, for example secretaries, IP administrators and paralegals, HR professionals, searchers, translators and examiners. These are issues which affect the whole team – let’s reach out to everyone and include them in the debate.
Look out for more details about speakers, topics, dates and venues, which will follow shortly.
Meanwhile, you can find out more about Mental Health Awareness Week here and if you’re on Twitter, by following the hashtag #MHAW17.
IP Inclusive Charter signatory Kilburn & Strode have been working on how to make everyone feel valued at work, and improving their employees' mental and physical well-being. Kilburn & Strode's HR director Jonathan Clarke has been persuaded to write a guest post for our blog about this initiative.
Jonathan writes: "To mark the first day of Spring, my team decided to give everyone in the office a bunch of daffodils. A small gesture representing the launch of our larger well-being initiative.
We already advance the well-being of our Kilburn & Strode colleagues in a variety of ways: from discounted gym membership and regular fresh fruit Mondays at work, to regular yoga sessions, mindfulness and in-house massages. All these initiatives have the same motivation - to foster a working environment in which everyone is engaged in the business and can fulfill their potential.
So, to signify launching our formal initiative, we invested in something small and spontaneous. The flowers, like spring, are the start of something new.
We are proud to be launching a comprehensive programme of events that focus on the physical and mental wellbeing of all our colleagues.
We encourage other people in the industry to start, or synchronise, something colourful in their staff programs. We’re happy to have done so today".
Thank you Jonathan for letting us know what Kilburn & Strode are doing to improve mental and physical well-being in the workplace: inspiration to us all! We'd love to know what other Charter signatories are doing to promote mental health in the office - email us if you'd like to feature on our blog.