Almost a quarter of legal professionals in Scotland have seen or are aware of mental health stigma and discrimination at their work, according to a survey.
More than 1,200 people responded to a joint survey by the Law Society of Scotland and mental health charity See Me, which revealed fears of being passed over for promotion and negative reactions if mental health troubles are aired at work.
A total of 24% of respondents reported having observed or been otherwise made aware of stigmatising attitudes towards mental health in their organisation.
Around the same proportion, 23%, said the same about discriminatory behaviour.
Just under one in three of those surveyed (31%) did not feel they could disclose their mental health problem without fear of being moved to another post or passed over for promotion.
Some 45% said they would not want to speak about their mental health in work for fear of the reaction from managers, while 37% said the same about the reaction from colleagues.
Of the 1,242 people in the industry who completed the online survey carried out between May and June last year – including solicitors, trainees, paralegals, legal technicians and support staff – around three in five (61%) reported having experienced mental health problems.
Of these, 44% said this had happened while working in their current organisation.
Respondents aged under 25 most commonly identified as having experience of mental health problems at 72%.
Around a quarter of respondents (24%) thought supervisors or line managers knew how to support staff in relation to their mental health and well-being.
A majority (77%) felt they would be supported by colleagues on returning to work after a period of mental ill health.
The survey also found the same proportion want a better understanding of mental health problems to be able to support others.
In response to the findings, the Law Society of Scotland – the regulatory body for Scotland’s solicitors – has launched a three-year action plan to tackle mental health stigma in the profession.
Society president Amanda Millar said: “I’m proud that we have been the first professional body in Scotland to have carried out a sector-wide survey of this kind and to be publishing our new action plan for change today.
“However, some of the report’s findings are not easy reading and it is clear that there is work to be done to change how we view mental health issues in the profession. ”
She said the society is “committed to tackling stigma and discrimination”, adding: “We will engage with the profession and respond to feedback on how we work towards changing workplace culture by opening up conversations around mental health and, importantly, developing the right support mechanisms over the next three years.
“We want everyone working within our profession to have the confidence to speak out about how they are feeling and to ask for help if they need it without having to worry about how people may react.”
Patty Lozano-Casal, See Me health, social care and workplace manager, said: “No-one should be treated unfairly or discriminated against because of their mental health.
“This survey shows that stigma and discrimination is still happening in the legal profession. ”
She said workplaces are one of the most common areas people experience mental health discrimination and praised the society’s plan to tackle the issue.