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.
At CIPA we are fortunate to have a long-established Benevolent Association, funded by the profession and managed by hard-working volunteers, where members can seek financial support which is so often at the heart of a problem. Good mental health, however, extends beyond a healthy bank balance and when CIPA’s members are confronted with other challenges in their personal or professional lives, they can call on the services of LawCare.
LawCare (http://www.lawcare.org.uk, 0800 279 6888) is a registered charity, founded in 1997, which is completely independent of the legal professional bodies but which is funded by contributions from organisations like CIPA. LawCare provides support and information for anyone in the legal community who is feeling the pressure of work or study, experiencing relationship or financial problems, coping with illness, dependency, bereavement, anxiety or depression. LawCare offers a free, independent and confidential helpline 365 days a year, supported by trained staff and volunteers who have worked in the law and understand the demands of legal education, training and practice.
In Mental Health Awareness Week 2017 I would say this to CIPA’s members and those working in the wider intellectual property system: you are never alone. Please do not be afraid to talk to a colleague, ring your professional body or go direct to a support agency such as CIPA’s Benevolent Association, IP Inclusive or LawCare. Together we can ensure that IP is a place where people thrive with good mental health."
Thank you Lee for this great article and a timely reminder about LawCare. We would also like to remind everyone about the three IP Inclusive events taking place during Mental Health Awareness Week 2017 on mental well-being in the workplace. Our events are taking place in: Leeds on 10th May, London on 11th May, and Newport (Wales) on 11th May. We hope you can make it to one of these events. Please do encourage everyone in your workplace to attend: the events are open to all working in the IP professions.