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As 10th September marks World Suicide Prevention Day, I felt the overriding urge to take pen-to-paper (or whatever the modern-day e-Equivalent is) and write about a subject which is too often pushed aside as taboo – mental health.
I never really know where to begin with these things, but I'll try with the reason why the topic is so close to my heart. Sadly in 2007, we lost my Dad, Alan Bennett, to depression – a well-grounded and loving family man, his passing crippled us all in a way we never could have imagined.
Ever since, I’ve been an active advocate for mental health and well-being (probably to the annoyance of half the population of LinkedIn), and have tried to promote and fundraise for the good causes which tackle the issue as much as I can. I’m a firm believer that mental illness doesn’t discriminate, in the same way as cancer’s cruel discretion – nobody can claim to be immune to it.
Is it really that big an issue?
Worryingly, it’s estimated that every year, 1 in 4 of us will experience a mental health problem. Even more worrying a statistic is that suicide is the single biggest killer of men aged under 45 in the UK – think about it: that’s ahead of cancer, cardiac, respiratory and all other diseases.
To add more context closer to home in the legal sphere, recent research (from the likes of the Junior Lawyers Division) has found that:
How should we approach mental health?
As an Employment lawyer, I suppose I should turn to a topic about which I have at least some margin of know-how.
“Mental health in the workplace” is a hot-topic at the moment – and rightly so. The source of mental health problems for many individuals stems from underlying struggles at work.
So, what can we do? There are plenty of steps both businesses and individuals can take. On the one hand, employers should consider:
The benefits to businesses of doing the above are endless. As well as the obvious advantage of improving the well-being of its staff, promoting mental health:
As for employees, useful to-do list entries could include:
Will things improve?
Sadly, the reality is that, despite the ever-growing progress we’ve made over recent years, hundreds of thousands of people are still struggling daily – a struggle which is undoubtedly worsened by the stigma which still exists surrounding mental health (not to mention the already-scarce resources of the NHS).
Not all is doom and gloom though – organisations like LawCare, and charities like Mind, are pivotal and have made a huge effort in bringing an end to the shame that’s attached to those who suffer. Equally, with thanks to the efforts of many famous/ public individuals like Princes William and Harry, we’re seeing that society is opening up even more about mental health, and is sobering up to the truth that everyone can suffer in some way or another.
If you (or someone you know) are ever struggling, no matter how trivial you think the issue is, please reach out – there’ll always be someone ready to listen and willing to help.
Gethin BennettSolicitor, Capital Law
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