Today is World Suicide Prevention Day (WSPD).
We are no strangers to stress in the IP professions, and doubtless to the mental health problems it can fuel. Rarely talked about, inadequately supported, problems such as anxiety and depression can easily lead to tragedy.
Today, then, we call on IP Inclusive supporters to help improve mental well-being in the IP professions, and - in the words of the WSPD organisers - to take a minute to reach out to someone and change the course of another person’s life.
Please read our blog below about the mental health survey we conducted with CIPA this spring. Our report includes practical recommendations for improving mental health in the workplace - for employers and their staff, and indeed for everyone in the IP professions.
You can also download our toolkit for tackling mental health in the workplace, from our resources page, and use it to spark discussion and change in your own organisation. And if you need more information on "mental health first aid", a valuable way of raising awareness and understanding, MHFA England is a good place to start.
Please do something to make a difference.
Monday 10 September 2018 is World Suicide Prevention Day (WSPD). It's a time for all of us to reflect on the devastating loneliness, fear and misery that can lead someone to take their own life, and what we can do to help prevent it.
A good time, therefore, for us to publish the results of our Mental Health Awareness Week survey of the patent profession.
Today's blog article has kindly been provided by Isobel Barry, Senior Associate at Carpmaels & Ransford, and is a report on the recent IP Out event. Carpmaels & Ransford is one of our Charter signatories.
Isobel writes: "In keeping with the spirit of Mental Health Awareness Week by not putting interested parties under pressure to attend multiple events in the same week, IP Out held its event about mental health about two months later at the end of July. It was titled In or Out: LGBT+ people and mental health.
Why hold a separate event addressing mental health issues for LGBT+ people? If you are thinking this, you are in company with about half of mental health workers, counsellors, psychologists and psychotherapists, who say they do not consider sexual orientation to be relevant to one's health needs [Unhealthy Attitudes, Stonewall (2015)]. However, LGB people are more likely to experience poor mental health than the population in general, leading to problems such as attempted suicide, self-harm, anxiety, depression and obsessive compulsive disorders [Inequality among lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender groups in the UK: a review of evidence, National Institute of Economic and Social Research, July 2016]. One study found gay men to be three times more likely to suffer from a limiting mental health condition than heterosexual men, rising to nearly five times more likely for bisexual men2. Statistics for trans* people make grim reading: nearly half (48 per cent) of trans people under 26 said they had attempted suicide [The RaRE Research Report (2015)].
Less surprising is the evidence that discrimination in society is a major contributor to the higher incidence of mental health problems among LGB people. Even in the absence of any overt homophobia, not being open in the workplace about one’s life can have a detrimental effect on a wide range of factors including satisfaction in one’s achievements and feelings of job security.
Today's blog article has kindly been provided by Pete Fellows, Managing Director at Fellows and Associates, and is an analysis of their recent salary survey. Fellows and Associates is one of our Charter signatories.
Pete writes: "Work/life balance is now the most important single factor for attorneys when they are choosing a new firm.
We’ve just published our salary survey. Unlike most data available of this kind in the industry our survey is filled in by the attorneys themselves instead of being completed by firms on their behalf. Therefore, its value we believe is one of perspective – it gives a view point from the grass roots which may differ from general perceptions (or misconceptions).
One of the questions we asked was one of priority, what would candidates want from a prospective employer? This year work/life balance overtook salary as the most important factor. Flexible working hours remains unchanged as the fourth most important factor and remote working is the seventh. Interestingly all of these factors scored higher than defined career progression, bonus structure and benefits package. So, one might reasonably conclude that a key way to recruit and retain staff would to be ensure that your environment is flexible and open minded. A friendly atmosphere scored third in the list of priorities so perhaps flexibility goes hand in hand with an environment where people feel comfortable in asking for different working arrangements?
Today's blog article has kindly been provided by Lucie Jones, executive paralegal at EIP - Lucie talks about grief and the death of one of her sons, and how hard it is to go back to a 'normal' life.
Lucie writes: "“The line is flat”, whispers my husband, sobbing next to me. “He’s gone.” I feel my face distorted in pain, a huge scream attempting to burst out of my chest and fill the green hospital room. Our son has just passed away. His adorable little body is still in my arms, covered in the electrodes and tubes that we had been hoping would save his life… The unimaginable has just happened and it seems my life has ended too…
…But life goes on and there is a world to face outside the grim hospital: a house filled with a new emptiness, family, friends or neighbours who cannot find the comforting words, and soon enough, often too soon, the suddenly intimidating workplace.
How does it feel to return to work after such a life-changing event? Is there anything an employer can do to help? And what can you do when you see a grief-stricken colleague reappearing in the office with hollow eyes?
Everyone reacts to loss in a different way and unfortunately there is no one size fits all. Having experienced intense grief myself, when one of my twin boys passed away two years ago, I cannot speak for all bereaved people but I can share my experience.
Today's blog article has kindly been provided by Elizabeth Rimmer, CEO of LawCare, andexplores the help that's available if you're suffering from workplace stress, and discusses what organisations should be doing to safeguard their employees' mental well-being.
Elizabeth writes: "At LawCare we know that life in the law can be challenging and sometimes things can get on top of you. We’ve been supporting lawyers for 20 years and we’ve seen first hand the effects long hours, high billing targets, and a competitive work environment can have on lawyers, many of whom become stressed.
In addition to this we often see certain personality traits in lawyers: an analytical mind, impatience, extremely driven, perfectionism, a constant feeling of a sense of urgency, and overly self-critical. These can all be very useful in the workplace but destructive in your private life. Often lawyers find it hard to admit they are having a difficult time and not coping for fear of showing weakness or losing face at work.
It is important that both firms and individuals take action to manage stress before it becomes too much to deal with. Stress is a normal response to a demanding work environment but chronic stress increases the risk of addictive and damaging behaviour, of developing anxiety, depression and other mental and physical health problems.
What can firms do to create a mentally healthy workplace
Depression, anxiety and stress are now the leading cause of sickness absence at work costing the UK economy over £70bn per year. Lawyers were found to be the third most stressed profession in a Health & Safety Executive study. The legal profession absolutely needs to make a shift towards a culture that better supports good mental health and wellbeing.
Today's blog article has kindly been provided by Hannah Fish, Marketing Manager at Carpmaels & Ransford, and is a report on the recent mental health event run by her firm. Carpmaels & Ransford is one of our Charter signatories.
Hannah writes: "Food for thought: We say “I’m fine” 14 times a week and yet we mean it only 19% of the time.
On 18th May, in conjunction with Mental Health Awareness Week, Carpmaels & Ransford hosted an IP Inclusive event focused on well-being at work.
The event began with a Mindfulness Pause, facilitated by Tamzin Muir, which provided an opportunity for the attendees to gather their thoughts for a few moments. Following this moment of quiet, Stacy Thomson of Thrive in the City facilitated a discussion between 3 panellists, Sarah Sparks, Richard Martin and Tamzin Muir, all of whom had been high-flyers in the corporate world and were frank in sharing their own experiences of struggling to maintain their own mental wellbeing under the pressures of the corporate environment.
The wide ranging discussion highlighted the importance of sleep, the necessity of recognising the pressure we put ourselves under, the recognition of chronic stress symptoms, and the importance of actively listening to those around us so that the next time a colleague responds to a question about their well-being with “I’m fine”, we are alert to the fact that it in fact could well mean: “I’m…Freaked out, Insecure, Neurotic and, Emotional.”
Following-on from yesterday's blog post about the mental health event that took place in Bristol last month, you can now download some notes which summarise the main points discussed and give practical ideas to help your organisation tackle this important topic. You can also download the UK IPO speakers' slides. Please use these to raise awareness and keep the conversation going within your own organisations: we all need to do what we can to improve our own and our colleagues' mental well-being.
(Of course, we wouldn't be IP professionals if we didn't remind you that these notes do not constitute legal or medical advice, so please don't rely on them as such.)
Thanks once again to Withers & Rogers and Haseltine Lake (especially Fiona McBride and Lesley Evans #1 for their hard work in co-ordinating the event) and to the UK IPO speakers Lesley Evans #2 and Mary Taylor.
Today's blog article has kindly been provided by Jennifer Unsworth, Senior Associate at Withers & Rogers LLP, and is a report on the recent mental health event run by her firm. Withers & Rogers is one of our Charter signatories.
Jennifer writes: "As part of Mental Health Awareness Week, Withers & Rogers hosted an IP Inclusive breakfast in their Bristol office. The focus of the workshop was "Mental Health - the last taboo".
The event was well-attended by the South West IP Community, including representatives from a number of law firms and the UK Intellectual Property Office (UK IPO), as well as Jonathan's Voice, a charity that was set up in memory of Jonathan McCartney, a patent attorney who tragically took his own life in 2017.
The UK IPO shared examples of initiatives that they have used to improve wellbeing in the workplace, including manager training courses, peer-to-peer support groups and the establishment of a team of Mental Health Champions.
Today's blog article has kindly been provided by Andrea Brewster, IP Inclusive Leader, and is a report on the joint IP Inclusive, CIPA and LawCare webinar on mental health.
Andrea writes: "We have to take responsibility for our mental health. This possibly isn’t what you want to hear when the existing demands on your resources are already close to overwhelming, but it was a key message from our 15th May webinar on “Why looking after your mental health is so important”.
Ann Charlton, from the charity LawCare, didn’t mince her words. We are all responsible, she said, for recognising and responding to potential mental health problems – in ourselves and in the people around us – and for addressing those problems openly and without judgement. Harsh though this introduction might have seemed, it was followed by sound and above all practical advice that showed our webinar presenter to be exactly the kind of straight-talking, wise and supportive friend that we all need when things are getting on top of us; she was concerned not only with helping us, but also with teaching us to help ourselves.
The webinar was jointly organised by IP Inclusive, CIPA and LawCare. It was open to all IP professionals and attracted over 130 registered attendees, some of whom would undoubtedly have been listening in groups with other colleagues. Intended to mark Mental Health Awareness Week, for which this year’s theme is stress, it explored how stress can affect professionals in the legal sector and what we can do to make ourselves more resilient to its ill-effects.
Ann’s presentation covered several important areas, including: