Depression is a serious issue affecting the legal profession. When compared to other professions, lawyers experience the highest incidence of depressive symptoms. Russell McVeagh takes mental health issues seriously and has a comprehensive well-being programme which supports staff in taking care of their mental and physical health. One recent initiative is partnering with well known comedian Mike King, to bring the serious conversation of mental well-being to law schools throughout the country.
As part of this programme, Russell McVeagh held several partner and staff sessions with Mike King and psychiatrist David Codyre (the founders and hosts of The Nutters Club, a radio show focused on mental health issues). During the sessions, Mike was incredibly open about his history of mental health issues including depression and addiction, and opened a frank and honest dialogue about these challenges.
Due to the success of these sessions, Russell McVeagh sponsored and hosted sessions with Mike King for the Wellington Young Lawyers Association and Auckland Young Lawyers Association in 2015 and 2016 respectively. A number of the firm’s graduates plus young lawyers at other firms attended these events. The firm saw a need to roll these sessions out to a wider audience.
In the second half of 2016, Russell McVeagh arranged sessions with Mike King at law schools all over New Zealand. The sessions commenced at the University of Otago in early August, and continued throughout the past 8 weeks at all major universities across the country. The final session for 2016 is due to be held at the University of Auckland mid-October.
Russell McVeagh HR Director Lesley Elvidge says, "Staff sessions with Mike King had been incredibly valuable for us internally as they facilitated open discussions about mental wellbeing that people often find difficult to have. We saw a real need for similar conversations to be had at law school. We were delighted to organise and sponsor Mike’s sessions at every law school at each university across the country. The feedback has been overwhelming.”
Interaction on Facebook following each event showed that each session was a great success. Total attendance at the sessions to date has been around 200 students. One student at Canterbury University said, “I’m so impressed that Russell McVeagh sponsors these types of talks in Uni, I really enjoyed it so thank you for helping to make that happen.”
Other Russell McVeagh health and well-being initiatives include: in-house resilience programmes held by Sven Hanson from the Resilience Institute, who teaches techniques to ensure people can remain calm, effective and responsive in challenging situations; free and confidential counselling services; an on-site health nurse in both offices; catch-up days (days in lieu); unlimited sick leave; annual R-U-OK? Week, subsidised gym memberships and Healthy Living Groups in both Auckland and Wellington offices.