WHILE many of us decide to adopt healthy eating habits and exercise to stay fit, how many of us actively take steps to look after our emotional and mental wellbeing?

I suspect most of us simply take it for granted, but there are positive steps everyone can take to care for their emotional health, even when under pressure.

Deadlines and a heavy workload are just a part of working life for many of us. And people who choose a legal career are often drawn to the intellectual challenge and thrive on the high pressure involved. It can, however, lead to prolonged and high levels of stress.

Research reveals that around one in five solicitors experiences a mental health issue at some stage in their career, so it’s crucial that we work to remove any stigma and discrimination and ensure that we can seek help, whether for ourselves or for a colleague or a client.

As the professional body for Scottish solicitors we want to support our members and others working in the legal sector throughout their careers and, most importantly, we want to make sure everyone knows that they can ask for help and that support is there when they need it.

Of course asking for help is sometimes not easy. Expectations from clients, managers and colleagues – as well as those we put on ourselves – can be high. However, we all work best when we are at our healthiest and it’s important to know that there are ways to realign the balance and restore our wellbeing. Recognising our own warning signs can also allow us to manage our psychological wellbeing and help us increase our resilience to life’s events.

That’s why we recently launched Lawscot Wellbeing – an online resource for solicitors, paralegals and others working in the legal sector who want to know what they can do to help ensure good emotional health. And, importantly, if they are struggling, what they can do to find support.

Lawscot Wellbeing aims to provide information and guidance on the practical steps we can all take to help maintain good mental and emotional health. It will also direct people to available support services, such as those offered by Lawcare, and mental health charities like See Me and SAMH, during difficult periods in their lives.

The web-based resource also provides information on how to help others you may be concerned about, whether they are a colleague or a client, and how to initiate potentially difficult conversations. This can be a particular challenge for solicitors who may be acting for a client who they think may have mental health issues or is vulnerable. Knowing what assistance is available is a good first step and while there is guidance on the processes a solicitor should adopt for a client they deem to be vulnerable, it can still be a difficult conversation to encourage someone to seek further help.

Employers have a crucial role to play too. Figures from See Me highlight that mental health issues cost the Scottish economy around £2 billion a year. How much of that includes the legal sector - and how much could be attributable to any particular firm? Every employer has to manage many risks on a day-to-day basis - their employees' emotional wellbeing is one of them. The legal sector is full of driven, talented individuals and supporting them is key to a thriving profession in the long term.

Talking about your own mental health can help you through difficult times. Understandably, in such a competitive sector, it may be hard to talk about how you feel at work, however there are many organisations offering confidential support and advice - it’s important to know there is always someone ready to listen and help you. To really drive change and challenge any stigma of mental health however, it is important that as a profession we can talk about it openly.

We want Lawscot Wellbeing to be more than an online resource. By working with our partner organisations, alongside input and support from our membership, we aim to encourage open conversation, provide access to the support people need and challenge the stigma around mental health both within and outwith the legal profession.

There is already a lot of great wellbeing work going on at law firms across Scotland - if you have insights to share on best practice, ideas you think would benefit the profession, or you want to get involved with our steering group, we are keen to hear from you.

Paul Mosson is executive director of member services and engagement at the Law Society of Scotland.