An independent, strong, diverse and effective legal profession – if at first you don’t succeed, try try again, but how many chances do we need?
The sensitivity of speaking about mental health from a BAME perspective was addressed by the Mental Health Foundation in 2019 . My colleague Shannett Thompson has analysed this in her blog “Mental health within ethnic minorities and why #KindnessMatters”. The message from the Mental Health Foundation was that BAME communities “often face individual and societal challenges that can affect access to healthcare and overall mental and physical health”; reporting key issues which affect mental health in ethnic minorities such as racism and discrimination, social and economic inequalities, mental health stigma and interaction with the criminal justice system.
Shannett further explored the disparities in mental health amongst the BAME communities by exploring the Race Equality Foundation report, which ultimately concluded that “black and minority ethnic communities are vulnerable to a range of mental health issues. They also have poorer experiences when they use mental health services and experience gaps in the provision of services which meet their cultural and linguistic needs.”
Shannett ended her blog by suggesting ways we could be kinder to each other and how we can overcome this stigma. I cannot speak for the masses, but below are things that I now do to keep my mental health fit:
The legal profession is demanding. We have many tasks on the go with deadlines that often overlap and come a lot quicker than hoped. It’s so easy to become overwhelmed, and if not tackled effectively, it can have a detrimental effect on our mental health. In no way do I seek to underplay how complex mental health is, but I have found that what works for me is taking a pause and breathing. I take a moment and regain focus. It sounds simple, but that extra moment to breathe and slow down helps me regain control.
Reading books which address mental health issues in the BAME community show me that sometimes my own struggles are actually “normal”. I have joined Kingsley Napley’s BAME book club which encourages active discussions based on the issues addressed in the books, which gets us talking about our own struggles. This leads to my next tactic, talking.
Admittedly the hardest for me to put into practice, but talking about our mental health is significant in overcoming this stigma. Shannett highlighted this so well, “Talk about mental health within our ethnic communities, which is also key to helping ease the stigma attached to it.” Talking has traditionally been perceived as a sign of weakness in many BAME communities, and we convince ourselves that nothing is wrong, whilst deep down our problems continue to cause our mental health to deteriorate. However, although I’m still not an “open book” and I do often struggle to talk, I realise that in moments when I do express my problems, the sense of relief is liberating. Sometimes we need the confidence to start these discussions and talks, and I have found joining BAME groups which encourage active talking is a step in the right direction.
During low moments of self-doubt, I have found myself regaining mental focus by listening to motivational music and speeches on platforms such as YouTube. I am sure I speak for most of us when I say that we have all, at some time, been lost in the abyss of YouTube during sleepless nights (top 10 mysteries of the ocean being a go to topic), but listening to motivational music and watching inspirational videos helps to channel out the negative thoughts, and gives me a fresh perspective on what I want to achieve; a strong, healthy and positive mind-set.
Mental health is important, and although it is evident that the BAME community is still struggling, it is clear that everyone has their own way of dealing with it. My list is non-exhaustive, and by no means a remedy for everyone, but if you take anything away from this blog, please let it be to take a second away from our hectic lives and just breathe.
As a firm, we have had many discussions about BAME and Black Lives Matter and how we can make a difference to the movement. We wanted to do more than just put out a statement of support - we wanted to take substantive action to address the inequalities faced by Black people and other ethnic minorities. As part of this, we are publishing a series of blogs from our varying practice areas highlighting what we are doing, how you can make a difference and shining a light on the issues. The blog series can be found here.
Satvir Sokhi is an Associate in Kingsley Napley’s Medical Negligence and Personal Injury team.
Whilst our Muslim colleagues and friends celebrate over communal meals and prayer, it is also a time for us at Kingsley Napley to reflect on the importance of observing and respecting the cultural and religious differences of others. We are motivated to make Kingsley Napley a place which is not only diverse, but also inclusive, where all our people feel able to bring their true selves to work.
When I told some of my friends I was writing a piece about drag activism, their reaction was almost unanimous…
"Oh, but, is there much to say?"
That's when I realised that drag queens, for many, are more synonymous with big hair and lip-syncing pop hits rather than political consciousness and activism. You can certainly understand the reason for this - we have been totally spoiled in recent years with the explosion of Ru Paul’s Drag Race around the world - the make-up, talents and confidence being a feast for the eyes (and the soul). But we cannot minimise the political importance of Mama Ru’s creation. Who could forget numbers such as “Shady Politics”; the discussions of gay conversion therapy while applying make-up; and Bob the Drag Queen describing his arrest during a 2011 marriage equality protest? Not to mention Nancy Pelosi sashaying into the All Stars season…
Coming out is an extremely personal journey and will be unique to each person. It takes a lot of courage to come out and a person may have to repeatedly do this in their personal and professional lives. Statistics show that 46% of people who identify as lesbian, gay and bisexual and 47% of people who identify as trans feel comfortable to discuss their orientation or gender identity.
How can you put the spotlight on intersectionality to remind others that, even within the LGBTQ+ community, not everyone is treated equal?
Are you proud of who you are, your journey and the person that you’ve become? Do you truly wear your heart on your sleeve? For some, being open and honest about who we are (which includes our gender identity or sexuality) does not come easily and can be extremely hard. It can be even tougher at work, and for those that hide their true self, the energy expenditure is endless. That survival cost of energy makes you less productive, or even worse still, it has a detrimental impact on your mental and physical health.
I am a trans woman who has recently embarked on her transition. Having only taken my first steps on this journey, I am acutely aware when writing this that I have much to learn about myself, about being trans, and about the diverse LGBTQ+ family that I now find myself part of. However, there is one theme that I feel is important to discuss as we celebrate Pride in 2021.
Following on from my colleague Sameena Munir’s blog ‘’pray the gay away: cull conversion therapy worldwide’’, the issue of gay conversion therapy dominates contemporary conversations surrounding LGBT politics and legislation in the UK, but the Government has failed to deliver on its promise to ban it.
For two weeks during Pride month, Kingsley Napley are publishing a series of blogs to celebrate Pride and highlight LGBTQ+ issues from home and abroad.
It’s been 9 years since R&B artist Frank Ocean headed off rumours about his particular pronoun usage in the album Channel Orange by posting on Tumblr that his first love had been a man. Since then, the momentum for the openness and success of queer artists has continued to gather pace, and LGBTQ+ representation in the arts and mainstream media is as wide as it has ever been. This rise has however raised important questions about pigeonholing queer artists, and perhaps most interestingly whether they must always shoulder the responsibility of ‘pushing the agenda’.
In February this year, I attended a virtual talk held by the InterLaw Diversity Forum for LGBT+ History Month. The speakers featured individuals working in the legal sector and each discussed their experience of coming out as trans or non-binary at work. It feels an apt lesson given this year’s Pride theme: Visibility, Unity and Equality.
In January 2020, I was fortunate enough to give birth to a beautiful, healthy baby boy. As far as I know, I am the first partner at Kingsley Napley (although certainly not the first employee) who has a baby who is lucky enough to have two mums. News of my pregnancy was met with overwhelming support from my colleagues. That support continues to this very day, and my wife and I remain truly grateful for the kindness that has been shown to us. However, since falling pregnant I have learnt that not all workplaces are as supportive to same-sex parents as mine. The concept of two mums or two dads starting a family is something that some people still struggle to get their heads around. So this year, for our KN Pride blog series, I have decided to explain the questions, that speaking from my own experience, it is not helpful to say to same-sex parents.
We have newly renamed our network to the Race, Ethnicity and Cultural Heritage (REACH) group. Our REACH network is a space where we come together to work towards fostering and maintaining an inclusive workplace, where we can all reach our full potential without fear of discrimination.
Satvir Sokhi was recently invited to speak and take part in Leeds Beckett University’s Law Enrichment session which allowed a panel of ethnically diverse professionals to speak to students about our experiences with diversity and inclusion within the legal sector.
On this day each year, over 130 countries around the world seek to celebrate sexual and gender diversities and draw attention to the various forms of discrimination and violence that the LGBTQ+ community continue to experience.
There are various drivers forcing law firms to embrace a more diverse workforce and to attract, promote and retain talent from all backgrounds, regardless of gender, gender-identity, race, ethnicity, sexuality, religion, age, and socio-economic class (to name but a few).
Following the tragic events of this week, I have thought back to the past two weeks and considered how my position might have been different if I was a woman. I now recognise just how incredibly ‘normal’ it has become for women to be warned against walking alone at night, which is something I have never had to consider as a man. This dichotomy between the experiences of men and women has been made clear by the reaction across traditional and social media.
Kingsley Napley continue to support International Women’s Day to help forge a more gender equal world. As a firm we pride ourselves on having a workforce made up of over 69% women, with more than 50% in the partnership. However, we know that much work still has to be done in the legal sector and beyond.
An urgent inquiry into systemic racism in the NHS and how it manifests itself in maternity care was launched yesterday. The Inquiry has been convened by Birthrights: an organisation dedicated to improving women’s experience of pregnancy and childbirth.
Today will see the start of the UK’s first Race Equality Week (an initiative “to unite organisations and individuals in activity to address issues affecting ethnic minority employees”). Whilst initiatives like this and, indeed, the UK’s first ever Ethnicity Pay Gap Day (8 January 2021) are very welcome and a cause for celebration and hope in relation to such matters, there is much work yet to be done on the issue of race equality and we cannot afford to be complacent. The ethnicity pay gap is one aspect of this that still needs to be addressed, despite the recent publicity around it and the increasing pressure on Government to take action.
According to Diversity UK, in 2018 roughly 13.8% of the UK population was from a minority ethnic background and 40% of the population in London were from the Black, Asian & Minority Ethnic (BAME) background.
Kingsley Napley had the pleasure of hosting an evening with Spark Inside. The charity coaches prisoners and advocates for change within the criminal justice system. Please read on to find out what we learnt and how you can help.
Universities UK (“UUK”) has published a new set of recommendations designed to decisively tackle racial harassment as part of wider efforts to address racial inequality in the higher education sector.
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