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Health and wellbeing in the law

"Wellbeing is connected with work-satisfaction."

It is well known that the pressures and stress of a busy and demanding workplace can take a serious toll. A 2007 report by Beaton Consulting and beyondblue: the national depression initiative for example, suggested that the incidence of depressive symptoms among lawyers and law students had reached alarming levels.

Since, depression has been recognised as a serious issue affecting the legal profession.

This month, the Honourable Associate Justice Ierodiaconou of the Supreme Court of Victoria addressed Deakin Law School alumni and staff on this topic, sharing insights on how to improve health and wellbeing in the law.

Associate Justice Ierodiaconou opened with the disquieting fact that a leading cause of death in Australia is suicide and thus, we really are dealing with a ‘life and death issue’.

Her Honour quoted Elizabeth Rusiti whose husband was a lawyer and who took his own life, ‘Suicide is never the solution, help is always available and your family will not be better off without you’.

Her Honour referred to the five pillars of wellbeing identified by Professor Martin Seligman: positive emotion, engagement, positive relationships, meaning and achievement.

‘A meaningful life is belonging and serving something that is bigger than the self. We must ask ourselves “What is my purpose for working in a particular job?” for example.’

Her Honour further posed that there are two types of goals humans strive towards. Extrinsic goals including luxury, image and financial power for example. Intrinsic goals, such as self-improvement and close relationships.  A focus on intrinsic goals is better for wellbeing than a focus on extrinsic goals.

Beyond personal efforts, Her Honour also pointed towards organisations as playing a key role in improving health and wellbeing in the profession and referred to research that managers’ attitudes towards their employees significantly impacts on wellbeing.

Her Honour also shared ten important thoughts to take home and reflect on in relation to our everyday and working lives.

Associate Justice Ierodiaconou’s tips and thoughts for a successful law career

  • Take small steps. Where you start is not necessarily where you will end up
  • Focus on developing your skills in an area that is meaningful to you
  • Try not to compare yourself with others
  • If you cannot find a job in the legal profession, focus on areas that work in the shadow of the law
  • Volunteer for not-for-profits – you never know where it could lead you
  • Identify your values and activities you enjoy and align them with each other
  • Wellbeing is connected with work-satisfaction
  • Become familiar with the Tristan Jepson Memorial Foundation Guidelines
  • If you are feeling unwell, know that help exists
  • Foster wellbeing for yourself, your clients and the community as a whole.

If you are feeling depressed or anxious, you can contact beyondblue on 1300 22 4636.

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