MHAW: Law firms, psychologists and professors launch industry-first mental health collaboration

In the first of its kind, dozens of family law practitioners from over fifteen firms and chambers collaborated with psychologists, psychiatrists and academics to produce resource materials that will provide industry-wide guidance to all family law practitioners on how to identify and support those involved in relationship breakdown who are struggling with their mental health.  These resource materials are accessible to anyone in family law and are intended to offer information and guidance.

Studies indicate a greatly increased risk of depression for those going through divorce and those contemplating divorce. According to an AARP study, 29% of people age 40 and over experience loneliness and depression during the divorce process and 51% have increased feelings of loneliness after divorce.

Payne Hicks Beach, this initiative was planned to help give guidance to solicitors in particular, who are often the first and sometimes only professional advisor dealing with relationship breakdown. The resource materials form a number of guides that are both original content for the specific audience of family law practitioners, alongside existing materials from relevant bodies including the Law Society, Family Justice Counsel and Tavistock Relationships.  These guides have been peer reviewed by a range of stakeholders, including charity partners and in consultation with many family law practitioners.

The end of a relationship is an incredibly emotional time,” comments Ben Parry-Smith, Partner at Payne Hicks Beach.  “I feel strongly we have a duty of care as family lawyers to support clients getting access to the right kind of help, beyond legal advice.  I am delighted so many of us collaborated on this initiative and hope that it will be a valuable resource for anyone practicing family law in the UK.  I hope it shines a spotlight and starts a wider conversation about how best to help vulnerable clients and indeed, one another.” Ben added.

Jonathan Iliff MD, NHS consultant at Psyke commented on his involvement:

“It is a great pleasure for my colleagues and I at Psyke to introduce the Vulnerable Clients Guide, developed in partnership with Payne Hicks Beach and with informal peer review. We hope it will be an aide and comfort to professionals wrestling with concern for this critical group of clients and the immense stressors they face on the difficult journey of divorce. We cannot know this journey unless it is our own. Nonetheless with this document we are delighted to support those professionals who do their work beside that journey, and give guidance where its travellers should lose their way.”
Sheena Cassidy Hope, Partner, Knowledge Lawyer, Mishcon de Reya added:

“Supporting vulnerable clients – particularly those facing the prospect of court proceedings – can also be challenging for the legal professionals involved. While those of us working within the Family Justice system tend to instinctively respond with empathy to the difficulties our clients face, it’s important that we also ensure that we are working to the high professional and regulatory standards that we are rightly held to. It’s hoped that the materials we’ve produced will help signpost professionals to guidance and resources that can help them navigate the best route forwards in frequently difficult situations.”

The Mental Health and Family Breakdown initiative launched March 19th at an event in Lincoln’s Inn to a large audience of solicitors, barristers, medics, mental health professionals, charities and partners including Assurety, Support Through Court, and Parents Promise.

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