Research shows that one in four people will experience mental health issues at some point in their lives, and within law that figure rises.
October 10th marks Mental Health Awareness Day, an initiative set up by the World Federation for Mental Health to advocate global awareness and support for mental illnesses and the ramifications they have on peoples’ lives.
At CEL, the health and wellbeing of our employees sits at the heart of what we do, which is why we have implemented a number of initiatives to advocate good mental health amongst our employees. Earlier this year, our trainee solicitor Jason Chan shared his insight on maintaining a good work/life balance within the law sector. Today, we sit down with our mental health first aiders Ashley and Ken, to find out what it’s like to be a mental health first aider in a busy law firm.
Firstly, could you let us know why and how you became a mental health first aider?
Ashley: Helping people achieve good mental health is something that means a lot to me personally, I don’t think someone would want to sign up for the role if they didn’t have a passion for it. We introduced the role in CEL in 2019 and I was voted by my colleagues to take on my role and did my training at The Liverpool Law Society, where we were taught about common mental health issues, how to manage our own mental health and how to appropriately support someone if they are going through a tough time.
Ken: I echo what Ashley said, I’m a sympathetic person and making people smile when they might need a reason to is a huge part of why I wanted to be a mental health first aider. Also experiencing mental health issues myself in the past and knowing some of the signs and also coping techniques allows me to understand but sometimes simply a listening ear is all they may need. Knowing that whilst I’m doing my job I can also be helping people brings me a lot of satisfaction. I haven’t done my official training yet, but am looking forward to completing this when courses are available following COVID.
So being a MHFA isn’t your main role, but how does it shape your day to day work life?
Ashley: When CEL was founded it was on the notion that mental health is a hugely important part of getting a good work/life balance, so whilst it might not be our main roles, it is definitely seen by the company as an important one. As a mental health first aider my door is always open for anyone who wants to talk, whether they’re someone on work experience or one of the directors. If someone is struggling I’ll take them out for a coffee and a chat and just be a good pair of ears for them, and point them in the direction of where they can get help.
Ken: One new endeavour we have recently started is the running club. Running changed my life, and I absolutely believe that it helps improve mental health as well as physical health. We have a really good group who run together regardless of ability The aim is to bring positivity and belief in themselves and to end the day with a run and a smile, which is the best bit!
How has COVID-19 had an impact on your role?
Ashley: I think this year has been particularly tricky for everyone, and that was something CEL were really mindful of as we went into lockdown. Whether it was a phone call, or the regular emails we send around with tips on looking after our mental health, we have always been available for the team to contact, and that was supported from the very top down. It also helps that we’re like a little family!
Ken: COVID-19 has changed the way we live our lives, so mental health will obviously factor in to it. However the willingness of the whole team to work together to navigate the obstacles the pandemic has thrown at us has really helped in keeping the team’s morale high, which has a knock-on effect into their general wellbeing.
Finally, what’s your favourite thing about being a mental health first aider?
Ashley: Being able to help people.
Ken: Making people smile.