At our Diversity Matters: Mental Health & Wellbeing event, we spoke to Mental Health Solicitor Fay Sayers about day-to-day life in this unique and important job and some of the lessons learned about improving wellbeing.
I did my bachelor’s degree in Law and Politics at the University of Hull before moving on to do my LPC at ULaw. I then attended the University of Northumbria and completed my LLM in Mental Health law.
I currently work as a Mental Health Solicitor, representing people detained under the Mental Health Act. I am also a Tutor and Supervising Solicitor at ULaw, working with students in pro bono to offer free legal advice to members of the public.
I wanted to be involved with ULaw’s Diversity Matters: Mental Health & Wellbeing because it’s so important that mental health is more widely understood. We all need to take care of our own mental health and not judge others’ individual mental health needs.
People often do not feel comfortable speaking about their mental health and might feel judged. Throughout my career as a Mental Health Solicitor, I have seen first-hand the impact poor mental health has on people’s wellbeing as well as their families, education and work life.
We need to make sure that people’s voices are heard, particularly those who cannot advocate for themselves. Sometimes it’s easier to do this with the help and advice of a solicitor. I often find myself as more of a counsellor, I will sit and listen to them and the reasons why they believe they have been brought into hospital.
What shocked me most when I started out is the vast range of people I would meet. The media and public perception mean that there is a lot of confusion around what mental illness looks like when in reality, it can affect anyone. I have represented doctors, solicitors, students, new mothers, shop workers, people who are unemployed – everyone has a story.
It’s one of the most rewarding jobs. I get to meet so many interesting people every day, travelling to different hospitals, meeting individuals from all different backgrounds, and I learn so much from them.
It’s important to remember that when struggling, people might not directly reach out. What we can do is learn how to see the signs. If someone’s behaviour suddenly changes, we need to try and recognise that as a sign of declining mental health.
To see improvements in the legal profession, we need more openness and understanding about mental health. It is not just psychotic disorders but includes eating disorders, personality disorders etc. We need to recognise that each person’s mental health is different to another person’s and not be quick to judge or offer a ‘quick fix’ solution. We also need to ensure that we look at options such as flexible working and that people are not in an office all night. Finally, that they have the right support from supervising solicitors when training.
Having the right support in place will help to promote improved mental health, and the first step is educating firms and universities around these issues. With this in place, we can start to give the same support to people with mental health issues as we would to someone with a physical problem and improve wellbeing more widely across the sector.
Discover more about our series of Diversity Matters events.