International Bar Association kicks off global mental health initiative

The organisation released two global surveys in phase one of the project

International Bar Association kicks off global mental health initiative

The International Bar Association (IBA) has kicked off its new global project focusing on mental health in the legal profession in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Phase one has begun with the launch of two international surveys, aimed at both individual practitioners and firms/legal institutions such as bar associations, law societies and in-house legal departments. The surveys were developed with the help of consultancy firm Acritas, and a number of items focus on how the pandemic has affected mental health in the industry.

The IBA said that through the survey findings, it hopes to gain knowledge on the following:

  • the pressing mental health concerns of legal professionals
  • the support they can expect to receive from their workplaces
  • how the wellbeing of lawyers and other stakeholders in the legal profession are affected by their work and working environments
  • identifying problems that each might have faced in getting the help they needed
  • what law firms, bars and law societies should be doing to support those in distress

Addressing mental wellbeing in the profession is a priority for IBA President Horacio Bernardes Neto.

“The devastating effects of depression, stress, addiction and other such attacks on our mental health may have preceded the current crisis, but there is no question that COVID-19 has exacerbated their impact. Yet, just as the pandemic has posed challenges for our profession and ways of life, and in the process refocused our attention to this critical issue, so it also presents opportunities for us to change for the better in the future,” he told association members.

Neto has set up the IBA Wellbeing Taskforce, which the IBA said is “a precursor to establishing a permanent body within the IBA” that will continue to focus on mental health in the profession even past Neto’s term, which ends next year. The group will be headed by officers from the IBA Bar Issues Commission, and will be aided by the organisation’s legal policy and research unit.

The taskforce will discuss the survey results alongside both IBA representatives and mental health experts at the IBA 2020 – Virtually Together Conference set to take place in November.

“These studies will provide us with a vital global snapshot of our profession. I sincerely hope that they will lead not only to the sharing of best practice guides, but also to starting conversations in those parts of the world where mental wellbeing is not spoken about so openly, and lawyers perhaps find themselves suffering in silence,” Neto said.

The surveys are available in both English and Spanish, and are designed to be anonymous.

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