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Law firms ask, are you ok?
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Law firms ask, are you ok?

Law firms have made a pitch to battle depression and anxiety in the workplace by signing up to the RUOK?Arvo initiative - an afternoon where work colleagues are encouraged to start a…

Law firms have made a pitch to battle depression and anxiety in the workplace by signing up to the RUOK?Arvo initiative - an afternoon where work colleagues are encouraged to start a conversation with individuals who might suffering.

RUOK?Arvo runs on November 27, 2009 on the Friday before Sunday's RUOK?Day - a broader and more general community initiative established in a bid to encourage participants to be aware that their loved ones, friends or colleagues might be suffering, and that a simple conversation could change somebody's life.

Already, 35 organisations of all sizes have signed up to the RUOK?Arvo initiative, with law firms Freehills and DLA Phillips Fox confirming their commitment to the afternoon. RUOK?Arvo organisers expected more to come on board as the day approaches.

Graeme Cowan, an event organiser and author of the book series Back From the Brink who suffered his own bout of depression as a managing director of a major company a few years ago, told Lawyers Weekly that participating organisations are asked to encourage their staff to reach out on the afternoon of the event to at least one person they suspect might be struggling.

To help, RUOK?Arvo provides briefing sheets online as guides to conversation starters and methods for assisting. "The main reason why people don't reach out is because they don't know what to say, and they are worried that by saying something they will open up a can of worms," said Cowan. "We are providing briefing sheets on how to construct a conversation."

Cowan added that the event is free for any organisation to confirm their participation, and he encouraged organisations who have not done so to realise the real high their staff can receive from helping another colleague.

He said the issue of depression is particularly concerning in the legal profession, given the fact that a recent study by the Brain and Mind Research Institute found that lawyers have a three times higher chance of suffering depression than somebody else in the general population. "The legal area has a high instance of depression and anxiety," he said. "I'm really hoping that many legal firms embrace this."

Meanwhile, RUOK?Arvo organisers also remind workplaces to consider a 2007 Medicare Private study which found that the largest loss of productivity to the Australian economy arises from depression and anxiety.

The problem also appears to have become worse in line with the strain of the global financial crisis. Davidson Trahaire, a workplace counselling group, claims that client sessions for anxiety and stress have increased 68 and 76 per cent respectively since 2007.

RUOK?Arvo has support documents, company registration details, posters, "Team Leader Meeting Guides" and related video content available for download at www.RUOKArvo.com.au

- Angela Priestley

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