We have witnessed the many facets of mental health declining in many of our clients. When you are in a court case fighting to keep your children with you or to have them returned, you are already highly aware of the fact that all your behaviour is being scrutinised. Then, overnight, you find yourself in lock down, trying to look after the children and home-schooling them while proving to others you can manage. Now let's say you have children with special needs or you are a recovering alcoholic. You cannot go to meetings and you don't feel strong enough to ask for help. You don't want to be judged. You lie awake at night worrying about what will be said about you and you have no one to discuss things with. You start to feel things slide, you are frightened and very tired. It a crisis within a crisis!
Managing your mental health can be tricky at the best of times. For many clients – and solicitors helping people deal with various crises – this has been further complicated during the pandemic.
You then call the one person you know will always listen. The one person who will be there for you and make suggestions on how to get help without being judged: your solicitor. You start calling them daily because there is no one else. They even answer their phone on the weekend. They are able to provide some assistance and, having shared the load, you begin to feel a little better. You can manage, for now.
So what happens to the solicitor who assists you and indeed several others? Where do they go to offload and support their own mental wellbeing? If they are lucky enough as we are to work in a supportive team then they start with offloading onto their colleagues. The stress may soon start to leak into their own family as they are working from home. They realise they may be sharing more about how they feel with their family than they would normally. Work and home have suddenly morphed into one.
During these unusual times we must as a profession all look out for each other. Just because those of us working with troubled families may be more used than some areas of law at managing well in a crisis we cannot ignore the impact these times are having on us all. None of us are immune to the effects of stress and managing other people's distress can create our own. Remember to be kind to each other and to stop for a few minutes each day to just ask a colleague: "how ya doing?" It may be exactly what they need.