Mental Health First Aid for Barristers and Staff

Thu 6th Feb 2020

Mental Health and Wellbeing was a big aim for some businesses in 2019 and will continue to be a big topic throughout 2020. Last year, I (David Richardson), undertook a course to become qualified as a Mental Health First Aider (alongside Chambers Director Helen Craven and Barrister Susan Sanders). The course provided not only a wealth of knowledge but it also supplied some very eye opening statistics:

  • 1 in 4 experience some form of a mental health issue within the course of a year
  • City life confers a higher risk of psychotic experiences
  • In 2013 Depression was the primary driver of disability in 26 countries
  • In 2014 19.7% of people in the UK aged 16 or older displayed symptoms of depression or anxiety
  • It is estimated that for every completed suicide, there are 10-25 attempts
  • The cost of mental health issues to the economy (£105 billion) is similar to the entire budget of the NHS and the total effect of violence on the economy (£124 billion)
  • Mental health issues are responsible for 91 million working days lost in the UK

You don’t need these statistics however to know that investing in First Aid for Mental Health is worth it, both for your company and your employees. As a self-employed barrister, many can feel the pressures that walks hand-in-hand; uncertainty as to when you’ll be paid, the need or desire to aid clerks and fellow barristers by overloading on work and so forth.

Barristers and clerks have a symbiotic relationship as both benefit from having the other and so we all need to work together to ensure our working environments are happy and healthy. We need to be more open to our colleagues and more aware of when our colleagues are struggling. We should encourage one another to take more leisure time, to finds methods of managing the stress built up throughout the day, to balance out our work and home life and to talk openly about anything that is causing us distress; be it a difficult task at work to a problem at home.

The course provided information on how to identify symptoms, methods on how to help those displaying the symptoms, how to approach them and avenues of professional help we can direct people to. The main aims of Mental Health First Aid are:

  1. Preserve life where a person may be at risk of harm to themselves or others
  2. Provide help to prevent the mental health issue from becoming more serious
  3. Promote recovery of good mental health
  4. Provide comfort to a person with a mental health issue


The wider aims of Mental Health First Aid are:

  1. Raise awareness of mental health issues in the community
  2. Reduce stigma and discrimination

I am confident that the training I underwent to become a Mental Health First Aider will be extremely valuable, not just to help my colleagues at work by identifying when they need help (then assisting them) but to also help me build an environment that encourages positive wellbeing so that my teammates and the barristers I clerk need not suffer (or at least not suffer in silence).

We may never fully eliminate mental health issues but together we can and will fight them.

Clerk David Richardson

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