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Herbies partner discusses her mental health issues on BBC
10 March 2017
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A Herbert Smith Freehills partner has spoken on the BBC about her mental health issues to help remove the stigma from mental health problems.

In 2016, said Herbies partner Sam Brown, she suffered a "professional breakdown" after feelings of fatigue and stress grew worse despite her efforts to overcome them. "It came to the point where I couldn't really concentrate", said Brown. "I couldn't sleep properly and I started to be fearful about my work, that it wasn't going to finish, there was too much and I couldn't get a grip on it". Sam said she finally went "kicking and screaming" to a psychiatrist and was signed off from work for three months. She returned, suffered a second breakdown and spent a further two weeks in hospital before she recovered. Appearing last week on BBC Breakfast, Brown said going to a psychiatrist "was the best thing I ever did".

  Brown, left, dropping some truth bombs

In an admirable effort to help break the taboo of mental health among its lawyers, two years ago Herbert Smith Freehills launched a mentoring scheme. It has developed the programme to encompass talks given by Brown and fellow partner Chris Parsons to partners and juniors about their own struggles with mental health. Brown is now at the vanguard of a new initiative launched by the Institute of Directors looking at what businesses in the UK can do to support staff. 

Transparency from the top sounds like an excellent approach to help other staff open up and reconsider their views on mental health. RollOnFriday tips its hat to Brown and Parsons, who have said they would be happy to address other partnerships. Interested firms should drop an email to HSF’s Head of Diversity and Inclusion David Shields at david.shields@hsf.com

Comments

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Please keep it nice. Thanks.

anonymous user
10/03/2017 09:11
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Shooty* here. Helps if you get a good shrink, I suppose. I went to one a few years back when I was working somewhere horrendous. It was talking therapy, really. Putting up with bad atmosphere, blame culture and a bullying partner. It helped for the first few sessions, but eventually was not enough to overcome what was actually just a damaging, awful place to work.
So I moved, and since, have never been happier.
Here endeth the lesson.
Judy_Carter
10/03/2017 10:02
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I think that this is very admirable indeed of Herbies.
Random_access
10/03/2017 10:38
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There are many people who suffer, whether work related or not, and the more we speak about this the better. There is no shame about being off its a broken leg so why should mental illness be any different. It's rare to see people felling able to stand up and be open about this issue and hats off to Sam Brown and Chris Parsons. And hats off to HSF for being human.
anonymous user
10/03/2017 13:45
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Admirable, but does it apply to all staff (HR/IT/Marketing/Accounts, or just to fee earners and partners. My experience is that the people in "costs" are treated like utter shit in law firms and initiatives like this never seem to apply to them.
anonymous user
10/03/2017 17:20
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I'm interested to see how law firms treat non partners and support staff. I had a breakdown in 2013 and when I was well enough to return to work, well, redundancy followed.

I've now decided not to resume my career.

I would be interested in sharing my experiences to help other lawyers keep and recover their mental health.
anonymous user
13/03/2017 19:32
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Well done, Herbies - but prevention is better than cure. This is not the first lady who has suffered from mental exhaustion there. I used to work with one and she said that despite taking a chunky pay cut, wild horses would not drag her back into the (Black) Magic Circle...
anonymous user
13/03/2017 19:33
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Hi Shooty, sorry to hear you worked at Jones Day - join the alumni who have cut their chains.
anonymous user
13/03/2017 22:36
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It's not mental illness its mental injury caused by damaging working environments. We no longer tolerate the physicallly unsafe workplaces of previous eras and we shouldn't tolerate psychological and socially damaging practices either.
  

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