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Law Institute of Victoria increases legal wellbeing support

Law Institute of Victoria increases legal wellbeing support

By LIV Media

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The importance of wellbeing and mental health support for lawyers has been recognised with the appointment of a new Wellbeing Manager at the Law Institute of Victoria.

LIV President Tania Wolff said Wellbeing Manager Megan Fulford would bring valuable skills to the role.

“The experience of the past COVID-19 year as well as the already elevated levels of mental health issues in the legal profession have prompted us to dedicate additional resources to wellbeing,” Ms Wolff said.

Ms Fulford will develop the mental health and wellbeing strategy for LIV members, and promote wellbeing initiatives to support legal practitioners.

Ms Fulford is a clinically trained psychologist with extensive experience in both public health and the corporate sector. She has worked with emergency services personnel (including in Victoria Police, the Metropolitan Fire Brigade and Ambulance Victoria) and a variety of corporate organisations including the AFL, KPMG and BHP. Ms Fulford has a particular interest in positive psychology, early intervention, resilience and the use of strengths-based interventions to enhance wellbeing.

Ms Fulford said that while there are similar stressors across different occupations, it is important to understand the specific drivers of high rates of mental health issues within the legal profession and develop strategies that are aimed at addressing these.

“I am delighted to work with the LIV and have seen the passion LIV staff and members have for working in and supporting the legal profession. I look forward to contributing to this by developing and implementing wellbeing strategies that are engaging and accessible and will assist us to enhance wellness and promote a strong culture of self-care within the profession,” Ms Fulford said.

A 2007 survey developed by national organisation beyondblue of more than 7500 people across 10 professions found lawyers were more likely to self-report depressive symptoms than other occupational categories: 15.2 per cent of the respondents working in law firms had experienced moderate or severe depressive symptoms in the past week, compared to the average of 10.5 per cent across all the respondents. Lawyers were also more likely to use alcohol and drugs to try to manage the problem.

A 2009 research project conducted by the Brain & Mind Research Institute: University of Sydney Conducted in conjunction with the Tristan Jepson Memorial Foundation on attitudes toward depression in Australian law students and lawyers found that law students and members of the legal profession self-report higher levels of psychological distress and depression than do community members of a similar age and sex.

Whilst these studies indicate that self-reported symptoms are potentially higher in the legal profession than the general population, Ms Fulford said many in the legal profession are also resilient and positively engaged in their work.

“It is important to gain an understanding of the factors that enhance wellbeing and those which are detrimental so that we can improve positive coping mechanisms and reduce the incidence of mental health issues.,” she said.

The LIV includes regular information on wellbeing in its flagship Law Institute Journal, daily LawNews bulletin and its professional development conferences and events and on its website https://www.liv.asn.au/ourEAP. A free member assistance program is available with 24/7 support and counselling on 1300 687 327. https://www.liv.asn.au/Professional-Practice/Supporting-You/Your-Psychological-Wellbeing/Wl

The LIV is the peak body for the legal profession in Victoria, representing almost 19,000 lawyers, students and people working in the law.


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