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Ireland outstrips UK in stressed lawyers getting help

MORE Irish barristers, solicitors and judges are seeking help for depression, bullying, addiction and work-related stress issues than their counterparts in the UK, according to helpline LawCare.

"The percentage of cases for Ireland was about twice what they were initially in other jurisdictions, and the demand remains strong," a LawCare spokesperson told the Sunday Independent.

"The issues that they're calling about at the moment are almost all stress related. The most common causes of the stress reported are workload, financial problems and disciplinary proceedings," said the spokesperson.

According to Ken Murphy, director general of the Law Society of Ireland, the legal profession is just as vulnerable to strain as many others, but those involved in it are often less likely to seek help.

"Solicitors tend to be resistant to acknowledging problems because we are seen as people who deal with others' problems," he said.

Although Mr Murphy believes that good communication on the part of LawCare is a key reason as to why a high number of people within the profession in Ireland are using its service, he agrees that the recession is also a contributing factor.

"The number of solicitors in Ireland has grown by two-thirds in 10 years. So there has been a huge increase in the number of solicitors, and with the recession there's been a huge reduction in the demand for legal work," he explained.

"Property-related work, in particular, has collapsed and that is a source of stress, but stress can be experienced by people at any level in the profession, regardless of their role or the years of experience that they have. The level of solicitors out of work now is in excess of a thousand, five years ago the number of unemployed solicitors would have been close to zero. But even for those who are in work, the pressure is always on. It's not all like that, but where it is, the society and the profession want to be of help."

LawCare, a free and confidential advisory service set up to help those involved in the legal profession, will launch a bid this week to attract more volunteers in the Republic of Ireland.

The charity helpline has worked with lawyers in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland since 1997 and is part funded by the Law Society of Ireland and the Bar Society of Ireland as well as relevant UK legal bodies.

LawCare hopes that its helpline, which is manned by lawyers who have received telephone counselling training, will encourage more solicitors, barristers and judges to discuss health and emotional issues with someone of a like mind.

Sunday Independent