Law school ranks high among the most stressful times in a lawyer’s career. Students must navigate intense competition, high expectations, and incessant deadlines on top of the stressors of everyday life. It’s no wonder that law students are nearly four times more likely than others to develop depression or other mental health issues.
Mental health struggles are particularly relevant in 2020, as many students study virtually, far from law school campuses and the in-person support of their professors and peers.
The ABA Law Student Division is raising awareness of these challenges this week in recognition of National Mental Health Day, which will be observed on Saturday, October 10. On and leading up to National Mental Health Day, the ABA Law Student Division is encouraging law schools across the U.S. to sponsor programs that help break the stigma associated with depression and anxiety among law students.
A focus on well-being in Illinois
Law schools across Illinois have answered the call, taking the opportunity to support their students with education and tools to help manage the pressures of law school.
The University of Illinois College of Law hosted a Wellness Wednesday panel and discussion as part of its Law 101 series for 1L, LLM, and Master of Studies in Law students. For its Class of 2020 graduates, the College of Law offered individual counseling and a secure location to take the bar exam, which was held remotely on October 5 and 6.
The Black Law Students Association at Chicago-Kent College of Law will be participating in the Out of the Darkness Walk, an American Foundation of Suicide Prevention initiative that raises awareness about suicide prevention. Students will have the opportunity to participate in in-person and virtual walks on October 17 and 18.
Loyola University College of Law has been hosting well-being activities for students this week, including guided meditations, a workshop on coping with COVID-19, and a virtual wellness conference with sessions ranging from cooking classes to combating social justice fatigue.
Law students at the UIC John Marshall Law School are also participating in a virtual wellness week, centered on a game of well-being Bingo. As students complete wellness activities – like taking a walk, completing a community service activity, or abstaining from social media — they check off the respective square on their Bingo card. Students with a winning card at the end of the week will be entered into a raffle for a Fitbit.
Ongoing support through LAP
The Illinois Lawyers’ Assistance Program (LAP) provides free and confidential services to law students struggling with mental health and substance abuse issues throughout the year. Many law students also come to LAP with questions about how to deal with character and fitness issues.
“Mental health does not discriminate, but it can be left behind. Law school presents new challenges for everyone; picking up the tools and building a foundation for mental health is essential for the student, lawyer, and the clients students will serve,” said Shelley Sandoval, Director of Development at LAP. “Seeking help, seeking solutions is a sign of strength. LAP welcomes you to a community of support and guidance for attorneys by attorneys. There is no challenge too big or small, we care about your mental wellness and vitality, we are positioned to help – you are not alone.”