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Protecting Your Mental Health and Wellbeing – a guide in progress

Protecting yoiur MH

In Mental Health Awareness Week 2018 IP (intellectual Property) Inclusive and CIPA (Chartered Institute of Patent Attorneys) conducted a survey about mental health and well-being in the patent attorney profession. Their report of the survey was dedicated to Jonathan’s Voice, a charity established in 2017 in memory of Jonathan McCartney. Jonathan was a patent attorney at Haseltine Lake (now Haseltine Lake Kempner) who died by suicide in October 2017.

The survey included student members, for whom there were tailored questions. The report made disturbing reading although some would say not entirely surprising (https://ipinclusive.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/1809-ip-inclusive-mental-wellbeing-survey-report.pdf. Some of the findings of the report were that over the previous two years, 67% of the of respondents to the main survey had been adversely affected at work by high stress levels and 55% by anxiety. Of the student responses 51% had been adversely affected by high stress levels and a similar number by anxiety. This means that half of the trainees who responded to the survey, those who were just starting on their career path, had experienced mental ill health at some point in the previous two years. This can’t be right. Things must change.

The recommendations of the report were securely founded on the data and aligned with the aims of Jonathan’s Voice. They also reflected some of the findings and recommendations of a government commissioned report, the Stevenson Farmer review – “Thriving at Work” 2017.

A similar survey by IP Inclusive, CIPA and CITMA (Chartered Institute of Trade Mark Attorneys) was undertaken in May 2019 (https://ipinclusive.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/190915-ipi-mhaw-survey-report.pdf). It indicated that there were some positive signs but still many areas in need of improvement. Jonathan’s Voice identified that there was a need for guidance and support for mental health and well-being that was specific for patent and trade mark professionals that acknowledged the particular demands of their work. To this end, in August 2019, Jonathan’s Voice approached the Charlie Waller Memorial Trust (CWMT), a charity established 20 years ago in similar circumstances to Jonathan’s Voice. CWMT’s work is with young people in schools and in universities and in offering training and resources to the workplace through the professional knowledge, skills and expertise of their trainers. Jonathan’s Voice is now collaborating with CWMT to produce bespoke materials for patent and trademark professionals. 

Jonathan’s Voice is delighted to be working with the CWMT on this project which began in October 2019. To ensure that the booklet meets the needs and expectations of those for whom it is intended, a questionnaire was sent out in December 2019. The response was extremely encouraging. It not only indicated a real need for such a resource, but the responses and comments have been invaluable in determining content and style. Writing has begun and we hope soon to be in a position to present a draft to patent and trade mark professionals for constructive feedback. It is envisaged that a second booklet will follow which will be intended for those who manage others in whatever capacity.

We are indebted to those who were able to respond to the questionnaire. Thank you. Some readers will not have seen it, so If you are a patent or trade mark professional and have specific ideas or would like to be involved, please email val@jonathansvoice.org.uk  We’d be delighted to hear from you.

We are realistic that a booklet is unlikely to eliminate all the stresses and demands in the profession. However, we will produce a resource grounded in research, written by mental health professionals and informed by the day to day experience of patent and trade mark attorney professionals which we believe will significantly contribute to protecting mental health in this sector.

Jonathan’s Voice is very grateful to those whose financial support make this work possible, the enthusiastic commitment of the writers of the booklet and the ongoing encouragement and engagement of IP Inclusive. All of which is invaluable.

We will keep you in touch with developments.

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