Written by Doogue + George Defence Lawyers
The mental health of legal practitioners has of recent times consistently been at the forefront of the industry’s policy agenda, with bodies such as the Law Council of Australia launching a mental health and wellbeing portal, firms providing in-house support mechanisms and foundations such as the Tristan Jepsen Memorial Foundation dedicated to providing professionals with resources to facilitate their wellbeing.
It was thus important that at the annual Australian Defence Lawyers’ Alliance Conference in Darling Harbour, held Friday 23rd March, that mental health was a key agenda item. ADLA, the peak alliance for criminal lawyers, invited lawyer, author and life coach Jerome Doraisamy to present on ‘Ensuring Your Sense of Self’ and addressing wellbeing issues within the industry.
Jerome candidly drew upon his own struggles with depression and anxiety to emphasise that the stigma attached to experiencing mental health issues must be removed. As a law student and young legal professional, he explained that the expectations that he and others placed on him drove him to a nervous breakdown – all in his early twenties. He emphasised that the profession naturally attracts the brightest, the boldest, the hard workers and the ones driven to succeed – and this takes a huge toll on a worker that is always expected to be ‘on’, ‘available’, ‘accessible’ in today’s legal, technological climate.
Key issues that people face include identifying the warning signs for mental health issues, managing the expectations of others (and yourself) and creating a permanent, non-negotiable boundary between your work and personal life. Jerome guided attendees through looking for signs of fatigue, depression and anxiety; creating and maintaining strong support networks; establishing a work/life balance that is respected by your colleagues and clients and, most importantly, giving yourself a break.
We thank Jerome for his time, candour and input in what was an informative and helpful session.