Vol. 39 No. 6
By Taylor Denslow
March 27 marks the Law School Division’s fourth annual National Mental Health Day. Started by the Division’s Mental Health Initiative Project in 2008, National Mental Health Day serves to increase awareness of mental health issues among law students.
According to data gathered by the , the prevalence of depression among law students and lawyers is higher than that of the general population. A 2002 article by Professor Larry Krieger of Florida State University in the Journal of Legal Education Article titled “Institutional Denial About the Dark Side of Law School, and Fresh Empirical Guidance for Constructively Breaking the Silence,” notes:
Practicing lawyers exhibit clinical anxiety, hostility, and depression at rates that range from 8 to 15 times the general population.
Twenty to 40 percent of law students suffer from clinical depression by the time they graduate.
Out of 104 occupational groups, lawyers rank the highest in depression.
Lawyers rank fifth in incidence of suicide.
Lawyers exhibit very high levels of substance abuse.
Because March 27 is a Sunday, the Mental Health Initiative Project encourages all law schools to organize educational and informational events at their schools on Monday, March 28, to further the dialogue on mental health. In particular, the project recommends that law school deans invite mental health professionals to their schools to teach students about the warning signs of prevalent mental illnesses and the resources that exist to cope with them. The project also encourages schools to publish short testimonials by students who have experienced mental illnesses to demonstrate the reality of the issue and destroy the negative stigma associated with these illnesses.
Law school deans, dedicated faculty, and students should also write and distribute letters to their student bodies to emphasize the importance of mental health and to affirm their dedication to the issue.
Whether through your SBA or local bar groups, we hope you and your law school will take this opportunity to play an active role in the activities and events planned throughout the country for National Mental Health Day.
The project’s website offers several resources to help organize events and initiatives for National Mental Health Day including a toolkit. For more information, please go to www.abanet.org/lsd/mentalhealth. R
Taylor Denslow, a third-year student at the of of Law, is the Division’s Mental Health Initiative Project Director.