In 2016, law firm Linklaters held two seminars for employees on the topic of suicide. The first seminar was held in October and featured Michael Mansfield QC and Yvette Greenway, founders of Silence of Suicide (SOS). The couple set up the organisation following the deaths by suicide of Mansfield’s daughter and a friend of Greenway’s, with the aim of breaking down the stigma around suicide and enabling people to talk openly talk about it. Jenny Lloyd, diversity and wellbeing advisor at Linklaters, says: “The focus of that session was really to start the conversation on suicide. They reminded us that it is still quite a taboo subject and it’s not one that a lot of people are touching on.”
The second seminar, which took place in November, was led by mental health campaigner Jonny Benjamin. Benjamin featured in the Channel 4 film The Stranger on the Bridge, which documented Benjamin’s #FindMike campaign to identify the man who had stopped him from taking his own life in 2008. “That was [also] a really powerful session,” says Lloyd. “What it taught us is that actually [suicide] is something that does affect our people but it’s just about having that conversation and letting people feel they can talk about it.”
The events were held at Linklater’s London and Colchester offices and the organisation’s occupational health nurse was in the room to provide support to anyone that needed it. The sessions were full, reaching their maximum 200-person seating capacity. The organisation also received positive feedback about the seminars and their role in beginning to break down the taboo around suicide, says Lloyd.
The seminars form part of the law firm’s wider strategy to support the health and wellbeing of its 2,500 UK employees. In addition to providing access to an employee assistance programme (EAP), private medical insurance (PMI), an on-site occupational health nurse, and on-site GP, Linklaters also runs a variety of awareness initiatives. The law firm, which is a founding member of the City Mental Health Alliance, focuses on a different wellbeing topic each month through a series of lunchtime seminars. This includes a focus on mental health in October to coincide with World Mental Health Day, men’s health in November in alignment with Movember, and financial wellbeing in December ahead of the festive period. Women’s health, sleep, exercise and nutrition are among the other topics covered throughout the year, which are communicated to staff via newsletters and email.
The organisation also runs lunch-and-learn sessions as part of its VisAbility Network, which launched in May 2016’s Mental Health Awareness Week. The network supports employees with a disability or mental health condition, as well as staff who are indirectly affected through friends and family. The lunch and learns include topics such as self-stigmatisation and talking therapies.
In addition, the organisation took part in the 2016 This is Me campaign, an initiative led by the Lord Mayor’s Appeal that encourages employees to share their experiences of mental health issues. Linklaters issued desk-drop postcards that featured part of employees’ stories, and staff could then read more on the intranet. The webpage had over 1,000 visits and the staff that shared their stories were recognised through the organisation’s internal awards.
Linklaters has also begun offering mental health first-aid training for managers within its business services functions, and plans to roll this out to partners later this year.
In the UK, the Samaritans can be contacted for free at any time on 116 123 or visit www.samaritans.org.