Episode 6: Robin talks second careers, mental health and the importance of morning tea - The New Lawyer Podcast
Well. This was a rich and important episode. I spoke with Robin, a now senior solicitor but former mental health practitioner about his career and the issue of mental health in the New Zealand legal profession (you can see why we ran long).
A note on wellbeing and mental health
Friends, lawyers, listeners: you can practise law with mental health challenges. Over half of all lawyers do, whether or not they talk about it. It takes self-knowledge and often an ability to seek and accept support from outside sources, but it can be done, and done well. I have no doubt that many of our top lawyers and judges struggle with mental health challenges from time to time.
But in most cases wellbeing and mental health are not fun, rosy, touchy feely things. They are hard, diligent, consistent work. They often require the support of friends, family, employers and health professionals, and always require self compassion.
The key is to know yourself as you are, to know you are not alone (especially in this profession), and know that all feelings are tunnels; there is always another side. (In the case of that last thing, it helps to know that your mind will lie to you and tell you there isn't. But it is lying.)
I refer to this book by Mike McKinney, the NZLS Friends Panel, and the page of mental health resources on this website. My particular plug is for The Upward Spiral by Alex Korb, since it explains in a way familiar to our analytical lawyer brains how the brain works and how different actions affect different parts. That sounds really boring but I promise, it's great.
Guidance on speaking to someone in (suicidal) distress
If you find yourself concerned about a loved one or colleague and never having suffered mental health challenges yourself, consider reviewing this page on how to raise the issue with that person. For a light but highly accurate explanation of what suicidal depressions feels like (and how NOT to respond to it), Allie Brosh's classic comic is still the go to.
Key take aways: listen without judgement, do not blame or shame them for any feeling they express (including suicidal thoughts), and do not expect to understand their perspective.