As mental health awareness week is upon us, I thought it would be appropriate to focus on the difficulties many people face on a day to day basis from a wide variety of mental health problems. Whilst there is always a lot of discussion during the week regarding the issue of mental health, it is important to remember that for people suffering, the problem is not limited to one week during the year and is something they face and struggle with on a day to day basis and at times can take over their lives.
This year the focus for mental health awareness week is stress. Research shows that two thirds of people experience a mental health problem during their lifetime and stress is the key factor in this, although there are of course many other contributors. Mental health problems are one of the main causes of the disease burden worldwide and are reported to be the primary driver of disability and a major contributor to suicide and heart disease.
Whilst not all people suffering from mental health issues will require legal assistance there is undoubtedly a connection and a need to encourage friends, family and loved ones suffering to think about taking advice to ensure that they are protected from vulnerable positions that they may find themselves in. This includes considering what would happen if they are unable to make decisions for themselves either in the short term, long term or even if their mental health declines permanently and the need to put in place the correct legal documents that accurately reflect their wishes.
Making a Lasting Power of Attorney is something that is perceived to be for the elderly only but this is not so! It is true however to say that the UK population is ageing rapidly and older people find themselves vulnerable to mental health problems due to many reasons including the decline in physical health, the ability to continue with their life in the way that they are accustomed and loneliness, to name just a few. Mental Health issues do not however discriminate on age and anybody could be affected during their lifetime. It can be very difficult to open up and discuss issues you are facing and our team attempt to make the process as easy as possible. We deliver a holistic approach and will proceed at a pace that suits you. The most important thing to consider is making a Lasting Power of Attorney as early as possible to ensure that you have the capacity to make the relevant decisions. It allows you to be in control of choosing who has the right to make decisions on your behalf with regard to both financial affairs and health and welfare, rather than the decision being based on an Order of the Court of Protection.
For many people suffering from a mental health issue it will be the Lasting Power of Attorney for Health and Welfare that may be the most important document they can prepare to secure themselves. This is because it allows you to appoint people you trust to make decisions that are in your best interest if you do not have the capacity to make decisions for yourself such as consenting to medical treatment, the appropriate provision of care and protection in vulnerable situations.
You never know when someone around you is suffering. It is important to invest time in friends, family and even strangers. You may never know the value in the help you may be giving by simply connecting with someone, having a conversation or by a simple act of kindness.
Claire Redhead – Partner and Solicitor in Wills and Estate Planning