Depression and anxiety within the legal profession are firmly on the agenda with the official launch of a new initiative by the Depression & Anxiety Working Group (DAWG).
The initiative, known as [email protected], includes the launch of a short film about mental health in the legal profession, as well as a new component of practical legal training - to be incorporated into the College of Law program - focusing on mental health and resilience for lawyers at the threshold of their careers.
"Law firms can no longer ignore the very real threat that depression and anxiety poses to the long-term health and wellbeing of our people," said Clayton Utz chief executive partner David Fagan in a statement released today.
"The [email protected] program is an important starting point in actively helping to raise awareness and understanding of what is a profession-wide issue that requires a profession-wide response."
DAWG was formed in early 2009 following disturbing revelations in the report titled Courting the Blues: Attitudes towards depression in Australian law students and legal practitioners (also known as The Hickie Report) and is a collaborative effort between the chief executive and managing partners of Allens Arthur Robinson, Mallesons Stephen Jaques, Blake Dawson, Freehills and Clayton Utz, as well as their directors of human resources, university law faculties, and the College of Law.
"If you want to affect a change, you have to lead it," said Allens managing chief executive partner Michael Rose.
"If the chief executives of the largest firms in the country stand up and say 'this is important, and it's important we talk about it', then hopefully that will help create an environment where there is a more healthy discussion about depression."
The initiative, which will be officially launched tonight, is aimed at building awareness and education, removing stigma surrounding mental illness, and making available self help strategies, support and resources.
"We recognise that lawyers, and law students, need to be equipped to better understand the skills needed to manage stress and create wellbeing and resilience," said Freehills partner Peter Butler.
"I believe that the initiative is a key step in the process of reducing the stigma that is sometimes associated with the issues of depression and anxiety. I am convinced that it will make a difference."