The thought of writing a blog filled me with dread when first asked to do it. Write something informative and engaging I was told. Yeah right I thought. I’m a lawyer, not a journalist.
But having read a number of self help guides on how to do this, I hope you find this, informative and engaging…
Mental health is a big issue. Not only in the UK but across the world. According to the World Mental Health Organisation depression alone is the second largest disability causing illness in the world. No small feat.
But I don’t want to bore you with statistics. I’d like to simply tell you about mental health from the point of view of a lawyer.
Working in mental health gives you a unique perspective. You have sight of the way our mental health system works in England. But more importantly, it places you in a position of trust and confidence with the very person who is the subject of everyone’s attention. The patient. You will on occassion spend more time with this person in one week then the consultant psychiatrist who is actually responsible for their care. In some cases, the patient will open up to you more then they will to any of the professionals involved in their care.
But I often get faced with the question, why do you do it?
Well let’s be clear on one thing. It certainly isn’t for the money. Yeah right, I hear you scoff. But you might be surprised to know a manager in a supermarket is paid more then your average mental health lawyer. I’m not preaching for sympathy but simply stating a fact. If someone chooses to become a mental health lawyer, it isn’t for the money.
A person detained in hospital under the Mental Health Act is entitled to free and independent legal advice and assistance to challenge their detention by way of a tribunal application. A legal aid lawyer practicing in mental health believes in this fundamental right. She or he will be passionate about this. We care about the privileged position our job gives to us. We’re there to ensure a patient is fairly treated and represented. We respond swiftly and will visit a patient soon after the ordeal of the admisson process. We fight for our clients becuase why should they be treated any differently to someone who can afford the most expensive lawyers money can buy. Because someone says they have a mental health disorder? Well even if they do, the power to remove someone from their home and deny them their liberty is no minor thing.
It’s only right that if you do this to someone, that you provide them with a person to be on their side. Someone who is not motivated by money. But by someone who actually cares about the role they play in what is a difficult and distressing situation. Someone thoroughly trained in the law and equipped to provide clear and competent advice.
A mental health lawyer.