Darren Kerr, Careers and Wellbeing Manager at the Law Society, asks the question - why aren't men speaking up about their mental health?
Recently, I put out a call asking for men to get involved with our International Men’s Day campaign by either writing a blog for us or by noting their interest to take part in a roundtable discussion on men’s mental health. Sounds easy right? There are thousands of males on the roll of solicitors in Scotland. Surely, we can get a dozen guys to help us out?
Well, sticking with the narrative that men don’t like discussing their mental health, I was disappointed - yet maybe not surprised - that only two guys came forward (one wasn’t even a member of the legal profession!). However, both blogs were brilliant. Really eye opening, honest and - let’s not forget – brave. It’s just shame we got so few, because I know there are many more men out there who have either suffered or are in a constant battle with their mental health.
So why aren’t we talking?
We know mental health affects men just as much as everyone else. In fact, statistically, men are three times more likely to die by suicide than women. Shockingly suicide is the leading cause of death for men under 50.
I don’t have the exact figures, but I would estimate from all the events, meetings and campaigns that we have hosted surrounding mental health and wellbeing, around 15-20% of the attendees are male. Back in 2019, in partnership with SeeMe, we conducted our own mental health and wellbeing survey. Only 29% of respondents were male. In the recent ‘Life in the Law’ report by LawCare, only 26% of respondents identified as male.
How are we ever going to improve the situation, remove the stigma and influence a cultural change surrounding mental health, if even completing an anonymous survey is a challenge for some?
My plea to you is this:
- Please consider participating in surveys or questionnaires about mental health and wellbeing, as they go some way to try and address issues and influence change. Without your input, how can that happen?
- Attend sessions on mental health and wellbeing. Even listening to other people’s experiences might just prove that you are not alone and there are people who can help you.
- Talk about it - as advised by every self-help book and mental health professional. It’s a big step, yet by talking about our mental health struggles, let’s share ideas on how we manage it and let’s end the stigma towards mental health and wellbeing.
Ryan McCuaig, solicitor at Thorntons Law and Trustee of LawCare, said: “LawCare recently carried out research for our Life in the Law report. Only 26% of those who responded to that research identified as male. In 2020, only 30% of those who accessed LawCare’s support services identified as male, so there is clearly an issue preventing men being open about their mental health and coming forward for help when they need it.
“As well as encouraging men to speak out about their mental health, we need to be challenging the cultures that are currently preventing them from doing so and ensuring that we are creating environments where male lawyers can speak openly about their mental health without fear of judgement, reprisals or impact upon their career progression”.
So, let's make a start. In the New Year, we will be hosting Lawscot Wellbeing roundtable discussions for men. If you are interested in taking part, please contact me directly - email@example.com - and I can provide you with more detail. It will be a safe space for us to discuss issues affecting men, look at how Lawscot Wellbeing can try and tackle them and make a difference to men like you and me.
Please, let’s finally start talking…
LawCare is an independent charity offering emotional support, information and training to the legal community in the UK . They work to promote good mental health and wellbeing in legal workplaces and drive change in education, training and practice.
Their support service offers a safe place to talk without judgement. They’re here to help, with helpline calls, emails and webchats answered in confidence by trained staff and volunteers who have first-hand experience of working in the law. They also have a network of peer supporters.