Practice at the bar is unquestionably stressful. Stress affects all barristers, regardless of seniority or experience. Barristers manage stress with varying degrees of success. This issue is not unique to the Bar or the legal profession in general, though it is well-recognised that lawyers are more likely to suffer depression than any other professional group and more likely to take up alcohol to deal with it.
A report from Beaton consulting and beyondblue regarding the mental health in the legal profession is the cause of considerable concern. The Bar Association supported the Anxiety and Depression Awareness (ADA) Month during October 2007 to raise awareness of anxiety and depression and help reduce the associated stigma.
The Black Dog Institute is an educational, research, clinical and community-oriented facility offering specialist expertise in depression and Bipolar Disorder.
Their web site contains fact sheets, online self-tests and online education programs.
Bar Association support for the Tristan Jepson Memorial Fund & lectures
At a meeting in October 2007 Bar Council resolved that the Bar Association donate $10,000 to the Tristan Jepson Memorial Fund, which aims to provide awareness and education amongst legal professionals of mental illness and to reduce the stigma attached to it. The fund hosts an annual lecture, the most recent of which was delivered by Dr Geoff Gallop in the Banco Court on 13 September 2007. The 2006 lecture "Towards Managing Mental Wellness in the Legal Profession" was delivered by Associate Professor Dr Mamta Gautam MD, FRCP(C), a leading Canadian psychiatrist specialising in professional health. The donation will contribute to the cost of a uniquely Australian survey on the legal profession conducted by Professor Ian Hickie of the Brain and Mind Research Institute.
Depression is more than just a low mood - it's a serious illness. People with depression find it hard to function every day. Depression has serious effects on physical and mental health. How do you know if a person is depressed and not just sad?
Assistance for barristers
Too often, for various reasons, barristers struggle with stress in both their professional and personal lives without seeking professional assistance. There is an understandable reluctance to self-report and insufficient collegiate reporting that might enable an affected barrister to obtain effective treatment. In an occupation where high level performance is invariably required and where self-confidence (or at least the projection of it) is all-important, most of us are reluctant to admit to any vulnerabilities.
Increasingly, barristers with fundamentally emotional or psychiatric problems (that is, sick, not bad, barristers) find themselves the object of disciplinary complaints.
BarCare is designed to guide barristers through emotional and stress related problems including family or marital problems, drug or alcohol dependency and practice pressures.Learn more >>
Barristers' Benevolent Fund
The Barristers' Benevolent Fund provides funding for the support services provided by the association.
Read the rules and regulations of the Barristers' Benevolent Fund >> or Make a donation by credit card >>
Sickness and Accident Fund
The Barristers' Sickness and Accident Fund was established in 1962. The fund is a separate entity to The New South Wales Bar Association and is managed by the trustee company, The Barristers Sickness and Accident Fund Pty Ltd. Six directors, who are practising barristers, control the fund and determine both proposals and claims.Learn more >>
There are practical steps every barrister can take to reduce the risk, if not prevent, clinical depression. What can you do?
> Learn to say no to the one brief too many.
> Get eight hours sleep.
> Make time for yourself as well as your family.
> Schedule exercise as part of your routine. Walk as much as possible.
> limit alcohol.
The association co-sponsors a web site for legal practitioners whose clients or colleagues may need urgent assistance for a mental health problem. Resources include the Mental Health First Aid Manual, the Checklist in Defended Local Court Hearings, a variety of NSW Government sponsored helplines and databases of service providers. Visit the web site >
Sydney University's Brain and Mind Research Institute is a unique institute devoted to the investigation and treatment of diseases of the brain and mind. Professor Ian Hickie is undertaking research into the effect of mental illness on the legal profession. Learn more about BMRI >
The Mental Health Association NSW Inc is a non-government organisation and registered charity funded by Northern Sydney Area Health. Members are people who are interested in mental health issues. The board of management is elected annually from the membership. The association's major activities include provision of the Mental Health Information Service, the Anxiety Disorders Alliance, support groups (including training and establishment of new groups), mental health promotion and advocacy.