Africa Legal’s Chief Commercial Officer Tom Pearson has been reflecting on a growing crisis around mental health in the legal sector and, in this article, announces the launch of a campaign to address the issue.
To say that I’ve been amazed, thrilled and motivated by the response would be a huge understatement.
My belief, that Africa Legal has a vital role in destigmatising mental health in our communities and motivating genuine positive change in addressing this crisis affecting our industry, has been well and truly cemented.
But to see genuine change, we can’t do this alone.
We are, therefore, announcing the launch of the ‘Ubuntu - Mental Health Matters’ (UMHM) campaign. As the phrase ‘Ubuntu’ reflects, this is all about bringing the right people and communities together to inspire genuine change.
‘Right people’ in this instance means lawyers and law firms from across the continent willing to speak about, support and explore mental health in the legal profession.
I have received personal outreach from lawyers across the continent on the back of my first article willing to support our programme through article contributions but this needs to be paired with the wider support of their, and other leading, law firms.
There will be no financial requirement to joining UMHM but we are asking for law firms of any size and location to join us as founding members of UMHM if they can:
Aim to provide a piece of content (article/interview/video/podcast etc.) on a once per month basis.
Such content will be hosted and promoted under the UMHM brand on Africa Legal and firms are more than welcome to promote such via their own channels.
The aim is to provide a reliable and growing collection of content related to mental health to ensure that we de-stigmatise mental health issues in the African legal community. We can also prevent feelings of isolation and loneliness that are so prevalent when people struggling are not exposed to just how many others are also in the same position.
On the back of my opening article, I've received direct communication from practitioners who are so glad to have such content 'in the open' and such positivity can only be enhanced by a collection of Africa's most prestigious legal brands helping create and promote further content.
Commit to split/rotate the cost of mental health assistance/awareness training on a monthly basis.
I envision a minimum of one online web-seminar/training being deployed each month on a particular topic. Some relevant experts will no doubt share their time for free but, if we see the benefit, it would be good to have the financial/logistical support of UMHM firms to help with this.
Even the online infrastructure required to produce and host such online content would be really helpful.
Potential training ideas could be:
Managing stress and anxiety
Creating a supportive work environment
Becoming a mental health ally
LGBT awareness and support in the workplace
I understand that firms run such programmes internally already but my feeling is that
This has yet to become as robust/regular in African markets as the US/UK and,
Ensuring that such content is made more widely available to any and all interested parties would bring a fantastically increased reach and impact to such courses.
UMHM has the potential to unite Africa's leading firms in combating an issue which disproportionately impacts our profession. It is hoped that a charter of sorts can be developed by our members in the long run which pledges law firms to minimum standards of their management, awareness and combating of mental health challenges internally and externally. This ambition could be a long ways off but I feel it useful to 'plant the seed' early!
There is also obviously potential for collaborations across the membership for events, content, initiatives etc.
If you would like to explore how your firm could join the UMHM initiative or have a personal story to share please email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org
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