Mental Health and Wellbeing in the Legal Profession
Mental health and wellbeing in the legal profession is an issue of critical importance. While solicitors and barristers carry out vitally important work on a daily basis, sometimes the pressures and stresses associated with that work can have a negative effect on a person’s mental health and wellbeing.
The Law Council of Australia's mental health and wellbeing portal is an initiative designed to provide a centralised source of information about mental health for the legal profession. It highlights the range of resources and assistance services currently available through the Law Council's Constituent Bodies, as well as through national initiatives.
If you are in distress, you can seek help immediately by calling Lifeline on 13 11 14.
If you require urgent medical attention, or are in immediate danger, please call 000.
Constituent Body Support Mechanisms
A range of mental health and wellbeing resources and assistance services are currently available through the Law Council's Constituent Bodies. Please follow the table below for further information.
The Law Institute of Victoria has committed to a number of quality support and wellbeing programs, in order to provide members at every stage of their legal career with the information and resources necessary to maintain good health. These programs include:
- The Member Assistance Program – an Employee Assistance Program (EAP), which offers a confidential counselling service and gives members access to qualified professionals, including psychologists, social workers and management coaches, to help deal with work or home issues, accessible on 1300 687 327, with up to three hours free of charge per issue per year;
- The LIV Wellbeing Program, which provides educational activities and resources to support health and wellbeing;
- The Wellbeing and the Law Foundation – a joint initiative of the Law Institute of Victoria and the Victorian Bar to promote ‘workplace wellness aspirations’ of both employees and employers and accessible at www.watlfoundation.org.au;
- A Statement of Shared Commitment, ‘signed by 10 legal, judicial and government organisations to improve the wellbeing of those working in the criminal justice sector’;
- LIV mentoring; and
- Information and options on managing your career.
For more information, please visit the Law Institute of Victoria website.
The Law Society of New South Wales offers a range of services and resources to support NSW solicitors.
These services include but are not limited to:
- The Solicitor Outreach Service (SOS) – an independent and confidential psychological support service for NSW solicitors;
- Regulatory and ethics compliance support;
- Mentoring opportunities; and
- A member benefits program that includes healthy lifestyle and personal care options.
For more information, please visit the Law Society of New South Wales website.
The Law Society Northern Territory aims to open up the conversation around mental health and provides members with a range of useful resources and tools, including LawCare – a 24-hour professional, confidential and free counselling service, provided through Employee Assistance Service Australia (EASA) and available on 1800 193 123 or at www.easa.org.au.
For more information, please visit the Law Society Northern Territory website.
The Law Society of South Australia ‘provides a number of services to assist practitioners to reduce the pressures of practice and improve their health and wellbeing’.
These services include, but are not limited to:
- LawCare – a confidential counselling service, offering those connected to the South Australian legal profession the opportunity to consult a general practitioner who has experience in treating psychological problems, with the Law Society covering the gap payments for two consultations per financial year;
- Advice and assistance from experienced legal practitioners through the Professional Advice Support Group, the Young Lawyers Support Group and the Complaints Companion Service;
- The Wellbeing & Resilience Guide, which sets out key aspects of developing and maintaining good mental health; and
- The Wellbeing & Resilience Online Programme, which is a free online course of educational models designed to be completed in an hour and a half and to provide advice and practical tips on dealing with stress through to serious mental health issues. Throughout the course participants have the opportunity to view videos made by members of the local legal profession who share their mental health experiences and speak about the importance of seeking help.
For more information, please visit the Law Society of South Australia's practitioner support webpage. Members can access more information and content by logging in.
Members can access the Law Society of Tasmania’s LawCare by logging on the website. Content is only available to members of the Law Society of Tasmania
The Law Society of Western Australia aims to support the wellbeing and resilience of its members through LawCare WA, which is a holistic program directed at managing career, life, and health issues.
It includes but is not limited to the following initiatives:
- The Member Assistance Programme – a counselling service: available on 1300 687 327, 24-hours, 7-days a week; or face-to-face between 8am and 6pm, Monday to Friday, with three free sessions per year;
- The Employee Relations Advice Line, which provides access to advice on human resources and employee relations issues;
- Ethical Guidance Panel, which provides access to advice on ethical issues;
- The Western Australian Referral Service for assistance with complaints to the Legal Profession Complaints Committee;
- Seminars on mental health awareness, stress management and mindfulness;
- Networking, social events and sporting tournaments; and
- Forthcoming initiatives targeted at addressing the challenges faced by law graduates and junior legal practitioners, such as: a Mental Health Hypothetical, where senior members of the profession discuss workplace scenarios that may affect junior lawyers; a Young Lawyers Committee Assembly to facilitate safe discussions on mental health and wellbeing issues; and Mental Health First Aid Training.
For more information, please visit the Law Society of Western Australia website.
The Queensland Law Society has developed a resilience and wellbeing portal, through which members can access all current mental health and wellbeing initiatives of the QLS and receive the information and support tools necessary to manage the pressures of work and life in the legal profession.
The following provides a summary of these initiatives, which range across the areas of guidance, education, research, working groups, publications, and future developments.
The initiatives include, but are not limited to:
- LawCare – a professional and confidential service for solicitors interested in accessing ongoing professional psychological treatment, support or information. The consultation service is accessible for information and appointments on 1800 177 743, 24-hours, 7-days, with phone, face-to-face, online, video, and live chat options. The QLS covers the cost;
- Leading Wellbeing in the Legal Profession – a program developed in collaboration with the Centre for Corporate Health, designed for supervisors in order to address the statistic that 60 percent of employees’ wellbeing at work is predicted by the quality of their relationship with their direct supervisor;
- Sessions on mental health and wellbeing, as part of the yearly professional development program;
- Factsheets and videos on issues commonly experienced in the legal profession, for lawyers as individuals, employees and employers;
- Articles on mental health and wellbeing, as well as links to resources such as self-assessment tools, stress management tools, blogs, and studies;
- The QLS runs a survey on mental health and wellbeing. The survey is completed as part of the QLS Practice Management Course and various other events, and helps to inform the development of QLS interventions and initiatives;
- The QLS is also a signatory to the Workplace Wellbeing: Best Practice Guidelines developed by Minds Count, formerly known as the Tristan Jepson Memorial Foundation, and runs an annual lecture;
- Wellbeing Working Group, which leads the resilience and wellbeing initiatives and is focused on providing the legal profession with guidance, education, events and publications on mental health and wellbeing;
- Equality and Diversity Committee, which provides the legal profession with guidance, education and publications on equity and diversity, particularly on issues such as bullying, sexual harassment and discrimination; and
- Following a recent review, the QLS is working on a number of new and forthcoming initiatives, including: extending the Ethics Guidance and Practice Support Telephone Service, the Practice Support Consultancy Service, and the Mental Health and Wellbeing Ambassadors Program; launching a mental health and wellbeing award, a wellness champions program, early-career lawyer podcasts, and a suicide awareness campaign; and, considering including wellbeing as a core requirement of Continuing Professional Development (CPD), amending the professional conduct rules to include a note on the connection between wellbeing and competency, and introducing a member survey.
For more information, please visit the Queensland Law Society website.
The ACT Bar Association has established BarCare – a confidential and independent service to assist barristers in dealing with mental health issues, such as stress, anxiety, depression, alcohol and drug misuse, family issues, work pressures, practice pressures, and related problems.
For more information, please visit the ACT Bar Association website.
The New South Wales Bar Association provides information to members on mental health and wellbeing under the following headings: Get Help;
Get Involved; and Vicarious Trauma. ‘Get Help’ gives urgent, confidential assistance to members through the following initiatives:
- BarCare – an independent, professional and confidential counselling service to assist barristers in managing stress-related problems, available on 0427 317 958 and at http://barcare.org/.
- BarCover – sickness and accident insurance for barristers; and
- The Barristers’ Benevolent Association, which provides funds for barristers suffering hardship.
‘Get Involved’ shares information regarding social, sporting and recreational events, and aims to foster collegiality and healthy lifestyles.
‘Vicarious Trauma’ has become an increasingly important focus of the NSW Bar Association’s Wellbeing Committee, and is currently addressed through Continuing Professional Development (CPD) seminars and videos. This focus recognises that barristers often deal with distressing subject matter in their work.
The NSW Bar Association is also a signatory to the Workplace Wellbeing: Best Practice Guidelines developed by Minds Count, formerly known as the Tristan Jepson Memorial Foundation, and has adapted these guidelines for use in barristers’ chambers.
For more information, please visit the New South Wales Bar website.
Through its BarCare programme, the Bar Association of Queensland provides members with access to three free confidential sessions per year with a panel clinical psychologist, or other mental health experts.
Members can contact these experts privately, and each session is completely confidential. Their details are on the BarCare Resources Centre page of the Bar Association of Queensland’s website.
The BarCare Resources Centre also contains various resources including articles on mental and physical health relevant to practise as a lawyer, and links to other resources and services that members may find of assistance.
The BarCare Resource Centre page can be accessed here and by navigating through the subpages on the left hand navigation pane.
Local members of the South Australian Bar Association have access to BarCare, an independent and confidential professional counselling service designed to assist barristers in dealing with mental health issues they are experiencing, including anxiety, depression, stress management and dependency issues.
More information about this and other available resources is found under 'Help and Counselling Services' on the South Australian Bar Assoication website.
The Victorian Bar has established a Health and Wellbeing Committee to promote the good health and wellbeing of barristers, and to arm them with information, support and access to health care services.
The Health and Wellbeing Committee’s initiatives include, but are not limited to:
- The Health Crisis Help Service – a 24-hour, 7-day a week, counselling service available by calling 03 9650 5540.
- The Wellbeing at the Victorian Bar – a survey and report aimed to compile information on the health and wellbeing of barristers, in order to identify and develop the resources needed to assist barristers to live well.
- The forthcoming Health and Wellbeing Portal. Subject to the provision of funding, the Victorian Bar intends to develop an online portal, which will provide interactive content in various formats, including text, video and digital media.
For more infornation, please visit the Victorian Bar website.
Get in touch
Does your law society or bar association provide a helpful resource relating to mental health and wellbeing in the legal profession? Let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
National Support Mechanisms
Counselling and other support services provided by the Law Council’s Constituent Bodies can be accessed confidentially. However, if you do not feel comfortable, are not a legal practitioner or member of a law society or bar association, or otherwise wish to access support outside the legal profession, a general service might be helpful to you.
The below table has information on national support services.
You can seek help immediately by calling a crisis support line. The following crisis support lines are available throughout Australia.
Lifeline – 13 11 14
Lifeline provides crisis support and suicide prevention services to anyone experiencing a personal crisis. You can call Lifeline on 13 11 14 at any time, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Lifeline also provides an online Crisis Support Chat between 7pm and 12am midnight (AEDT), 7 days a week. Lifeline is currently trialling Lifeline Text, which is the same compassionate, non-judgmental support delivered via text message. You can access this service by texting 0477 13 11 14 between 6pm and 10pm (AEDT), 7 days a week.
Suicide Call Back Service – 1300 659 467
The Suicide Call Back Service provides free, professional and immediate counselling for anyone affected by suicide or suicidal thoughts. You can call the Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467 at any time, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. There are also options to online chat or video chat at any time, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. In addition, you may be eligible to receive up to six free telephone counselling sessions for longer term support.
Beyond Blue – 1300 22 4636
Beyond Blue provides support to anyone experiencing symptoms of depression or anxiety, or going through a tough time, and can point you to further information and services. You can call Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636 at any time, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Beyond Blue provides an online chat between 3pm and 12am midnight (AEST), 7 days a week. There are also options to email, or to join online community forums.
MensLine Australia – 1300 78 99 78
MensLine Australia provides free professional support to men experiencing relationship breakdown, separation, divorce, family violence, feelings of suicide, or mental ill-health. You can call MensLine Australia on 1300 78 99 78 at any time, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. There are also options to online chat or video chat at any time, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
1800 RESPECT – 1800 737 732
1800 RESPECT provides support to people impacted by sexual assault, domestic violence, family violence, or abuse. You can call 1800 RESPECT on 1800 737 732 at any time, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. There is also the option to chat online at any time, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
The National Relay Service (NRS) makes these services accessible to people with a disability, who find it difficult to hear or speak. Contact the NRS online and give the details of the service you wish to access.
The Translating and Interpreting Service (TIS National) makes these services accessible to people who wish to communicate in a language other than English. Call TIS on 131 450 and ask them to connect to the service you wish to access. Alternatively, call a service and ask for an interpreter or translator.
Having a regular general practitioner (GP) is one of the best things you can do for your health. Your GP can help you develop a Mental Health Care Plan, and can refer you to other medical practitioners, such as counsellors, psychologists and psychiatrists, for targeted help.
Regular visits with the same GP means you will have someone who knows you and who can help track changes in your mood.
You can find further support, information and resources on how to manage your mental health with the links below.
Suicide Call Back Service
The Suicide Call Back Service provides information and resources, such as safety plans, ways of accessing professional support, and ways of moving on, for anyone feeling suicidal or anyone who has attempted suicide.
SANE Australia supports Australians affected by complex mental illnesses. If you are living with mental illness, or supporting someone who is, you can call the SANE helpline on 1800 187 263 between 10am and 10pm, Monday-Friday, or email, chat online or join an online community forum.
Headspace provides tailored and holistic mental health support to young people aged 12 to 25. This reflects the fact that more than 75 per cent of mental health issues develop before a person turns 25.
The Butterfly Foundation supports people experiencing eating disorders and body image issues. You can call Butterfly’s National Helpline on 1800 334 673, web chat or email, or access their information, services, groups, and recovery programs.
Gambling Help works to support anyone affected by gambling. You can call Gambling Help on 1800 858 858, join a web chat or discussion, or access SMS support or self-help resources.
Alcohol and Drug Foundation
The Alcohol and Drug Foundation provides information, support and advocacy on preventing and minimising harm in relation to alcohol and drugs. You can call ADF on 1300 85 85 84 or access their list of local and targeted contacts here.
MensLine Australia provides counselling, support and information to men on issues such as family and relationship breakdowns, depression, anger, stress, and destructive coping mechanisms like suicide, drugs and alcohol. Their focus reflects the fact that men are less likely than women to access professional help for their mental health.
Head to Health
Head to Health is an Australian Government initiative connecting you with the right digital mental health resources for your needs.
Black Dog Institute
Life In Mind
Mental Health First Aid
R U OK?
R U OK? empowers people to initiate conversations around mental health and wellbeing, in order to support others struggling with life. It promotes numerous initiatives, including resources like factsheets, videos and posters; work, community and national events; and everyday advice.
Minds Count, formerly known as the Tristan Jepson Memorial Foundation, has developed guidelines to protect and promote psychological health and safety in the legal workplace. Organisations can become a signatory to the guidelines, and leaders can use the guidelines as a tool to support their employees.
Mental Health First Aid
Lifeline provides corporate training opportunities for individuals and organisations on such topics as working effectively, social and emotional wellbeing, self care, depression awareness, stress awareness, mental health awareness, suicide prevention through LivingWorks, ASIST, and safeTALK.
R U OK?
R U OK? provides resources for creating a safe and supportive culture, initiating difficult conversations and looking after colleagues in the workplace. The aim of R U OK? is to support those struggling with life.
Black Dog Institute
Safe Work Australia
The mental health website from Safe Work Australia provides important information, links and support, including codes and guides, case studies, and videos, seminars and podcasts, on work-related mental health conditions.
Minds Count, formerly known as the Tristan Jepson Memorial Foundation, seeks to drive change in the legal profession in relation to psychological ill-health. It is a reference point for information and research.
Wellness for Law Network
The Wellness Network for Law is a community of legal academics, practitioners and students who are committed to: first, addressing the high levels of psychological distress experienced in law; and second, promoting wellness at law school, in the legal academy, and in the profession.
Resilience@law was a collaboration in 2010 between five major national law firms; Allens Arthur Robinson, Blake Dawson, Clayton Utz, Freehills and Mallesons and The College of Law to take a leadership role in raising awareness and understanding of the nature and impact of stress, depression, and anxiety across the legal profession.
Actively maintaining your mental health and wellbeing is the best defence against developing a mental health issue. It is the simple things that make a big difference. Physical exercise, a balanced diet, good sleep, enjoying social connections, and maintaining a sense of purpose, are vital to mental health and wellbeing. It is important to develop healthy habits that fit easily into your daily life.