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David Orbaum – Wellbeing in Perspective

I am happy to admit that the first time I heard about the Wellbeing Initiative  earlier this year I was firmly in the camp of those who thought it was a terrible idea. A Chambers with a large group of able and robust advocates  would be portrayed as weak and needy if it supported the initiative .A  damaging image could be presented  to those wishing to instruct us. Some of the ideas being discussed  were a mystery to me. I thought that Pilates was a Greek starter and I still do not understand what Reflexology is.

I was keen to assess how our initiative  was likely to be received by the outside world and therefore I canvassed the views of a cross section of friends and professional colleagues. The results were surprising. At one extreme whole hearted support for a wellbeing policy as essential to a modern professional working environment and at the other end of the spectrum  a contemptuous indication that we should all ” grow a pair” .Interestingly the positive view came from an unreconstructed male who is a senior partner in a large firm of accountants and the negative view from a female care solicitor. It is fair to say that a significant majority were in favour of the initiative rather than against it. This led to a reappraisal on my part  which was assisted by viewing the webinar “ Wellbeing at the Bar” on the North Eastern Circuit Website. This has  a useful contribution from our own Kama Melly QC and is quite thought provoking.

What is clear is that the Bar as a whole like other professions suffers  high levels of stress affecting many of its members. This no doubt has always been the case but  in the past,  it has been largely ignored and individuals have been left to face  their own demons and develop coping mechanisms . An acknowledgement that the problem is real and effects most people to a greater or lesser extent is the first step towards developing solutions

As a modern set of chambers priding ourselves on our ability to communicate  effectively with our professional and lay clients it is vitally important that we do not overlook and forget the need to  communicate with and support each other. The Wellbeing Initiative put in perspective is no more or less than this . Members react to stress in different ways and may benefit from a wide range of potential assistance and activities. Whilst some of us may recoil at the prospect of using psychological chat lines this may be of significant benefit to others. Those of us who like to meet socially after work  to unwind   are engaging in  equally valid wellbeing options. There is no one size fits all solution.  The important thing is to promote a range of activities which are available for those who wish to participate and to talk to and support each other

Our profession is by its very nature one in which individuals spend many  hours of their lives working on their own sometimes under considerable pressure. It  is easy to become isolated and occasionally to feel overwhelmed . Recognising and addressing this is not in the final analysis a sign of weakness but a progressive and necessary development to facilitate the mental health and wellbeing of its members.    We need to be alive to recognising signs of stress in our colleagues and  show a greater willingness to lend  a sympathetic ear

So, Wellbeing is here to stay and now that I’ve converted to the cause I realise I have always been ahead of the game . I used to think  when I went for a much needed drink after work to my favourite wine bar behind Park Square  it was simply a well earned pleasure . Now I appreciate that what I have really been doing is improving my mental health  and so that the efficacy of this therapy can be shared by  all for our mutual benefit can I invite as many of you as possible to join me from now on as frequently as possible in the New Year  ahead.

David Orbaum

This article is available to download.