Many callers to LawCare’s free and confidential helplines take comfort in knowing that others are experiencing, or have experienced, the same problem. Especially during the recession it was quite common for callers to ask, “Are you hearing from a lot of solicitors who have been made redundant?” or “Have you heard from other callers whose practices have failed?” but even before that, we were often asked questions such as “Is depression common in Barristers?” “Do other Legal Executives drink to excess?”
The overwhelming answer to all these questions is “Yes”. We open over 500 new case files each year from members of the various arms of the legal profession, from paralegals in provincial offices to partners in large City firms, and after 13 years there is very little we haven’t encountered before.
There are several reasons why those facing a particular challenge like to know that others are, or have been, in a similar situation:
- It can be reassuring, in that it helps the caller to recognise that have not been singled out, or that they are not somehow different or weaker that others – “It’s not me”
- It can impart a sense of solidarity to know that they are not the only person facing that particular problem
- It reassures them that their problem is “normal”
- It assures them that it is possible to overcome it. Whilst confidentiality prevents LawCare staff telling callers about others who have phoned the helpline with the same problem, it is implicit that those who have called previously have received the support they needed to enable them to deal with the issue or recover from the impairment
- On a more practical level, it tells them that the person answering the helpline has experience in helping with the problem, and is not likely to be shocked or wrong-footed by anything they might say.
If callers find it comforting to know that other lawyers have faced their particular challenge and overcome it, how much better to actually be able to speak to one of them. LawCare has a database of over 156 volunteers, across the jurisdictions we cover, who can befriend them and offer ongoing, one-to-one support, encouragement and friendship to helpline callers referred to them by LawCare staff. Many of our volunteers have been through difficult times or suffered from mental illness or addiction themselves. With at least two years’ recovery, their experience and optimism can make a tremendous difference to a suffering lawyer.
Unfortunately, it is not always possible to match up a helpline caller with a volunteer who meets all of their requirements as the problems reported to our helpline are becoming ever more diverse and complex. We therefore always need new volunteers. So, if you have experienced a traumatic time such as redundancy or a disciplinary tribunal; overcome a mental illness such as OCD or schizophrenia (with at least two years symptom-free); or gone into recovery from drug addiction or an eating disorder, would you consider becoming a LawCare volunteer? The role is not unreasonably demanding and no volunteer is ever asked to do a case they feel is outside their experience, or when they already have to many demands in their life to take on that role.
If you feel that you can offer support, sympathy and the benefit of your experience to a fellow lawyer, please contact LawCare for information about volunteering by calling 01268 771333 or emailing email@example.com. Knowing that you have been there, done that and put your life back together again, could make all the difference to someone else facing an uphill struggle.
LawCare’s free and confidential helpline is available on 0800 279 6888 from 9 a.m. to 7.30 p.m. on weekdays, and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at weekends and bank holidays. www.lawcare.org.uk.