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Mental Health Day 2016

We are encouraged to get routine physical exams to maintain our physical health and prevent heart disease, diabetes, obesity, etc. But how often have you been encouraged to check in on your mental health?

Sadly, we do not live in a society where mental and physical health are treated equally. It seems it is more socially accepted to go to make an appointment with a doctor for a physical ailment like a potential broken bone than to seek treatment for a mental health ailment. The societal stigma is magnified in the legal community.

Lawyers are among the most frequently depressed occupational group in the United States and we see this foreshadowed during law school itself. A recent study published in The Bar Examiner suggests that significant percentages of law students are struggling with mental health concerns, yet certain apprehensions are keeping them from seeking professional help.

When asked about factors that would discourage them from seeking help for mental health related issues, survey respondents indicated:

  • Potential threat to job or academic status
  • Social stigma
  • Financial reasons
  • Potential threat to bar admission
  • The belief that they could handle the problem themselves
  • Not having time
  • Concerns about privacy

In March of 2015, Screening for Mental Health partnered with the Dave Nee Foundation to provide free mental health screenings for law students for Law School Mental Health day. A mental health screening provides a quick, anonymous, and effective way for students to recognize if they are at risk for treatable mental health disorders. Screening results allow students to learn more about their mental health and offering screenings lets students know that the law school that they attend is paying attention to their well-being.

Eighty-four law schools across the country participated in last year’s Law School Mental Health Day to offer online screenings, and more than 3,500 mental health screenings were taken. For individuals who opted to take a screening, 72 percent scored positive for symptoms consistent with depression, and 76 percent scored positive for symptoms consistent with Generalized Anxiety Disorder.

Of those who responded to the voluntary question, “Will you make a follow up appointment?” only 29% responded that they would. It’s likely that while experiencing high rates of distress, law students are choosing not to seek professional help for one or more of the barriers listed above.

Once again this March, Screening for Mental Health will partner with the Dave Nee Foundation and the American Bar Association Law Student Division to raise awareness for Law Student Mental Health Day, today, March 28, 2016, and offer the important mental health-screening tool to law students across the country. It is our hope that this year we can screen 10,000 law students.

We need your help to do that. Please click here and find your school. Take the screening. It takes 3-5 minutes.

The screening will be available for three weeks beginning March 21.  We also hope to see an increase in the percentage of students who answer affirmatively to the question – will you make a follow up appointment?

While tackling fear and stigma reduction for law students may seem like a daunting task, getting the conversation started can be simple. Law schools can promote and encourage their students to take care of their mental health and encourage faculty and staff to know the signs of a student in distress as well as how to help a student in distress.

Through the help of the ABA Law Student Division, the Dave Nee Foundation, and Screening for Mental Health, the conversation has been started, and we are hopeful that all who read this will now carry the conversation forward with a few simple non-time consuming actions.

  • Find your law school and take a screening.
  • Know the warning signs that someone you care about may be at risk.
  • Change the conversation. Instead of asking “how far did you get in the reading,” ask a classmate “what did you do to take care of yourself today?
  • Be active. Grab an exercise buddy in addition to a study partner.
  • See mental health with an equal importance as physical health.

Eighty-six percent of law students who participated in the Survey of Law Student Well-Being in Spring 2014 reported that helping someone was a motivating factor for attending law school. That means 86 percent of law students need to make sure they are taking care of themselves so that they will be in a position to help someone else.

Participating schools include:

  • American University Washington College of Law
  • Appalachian Law School
  • Atlanta’s John Marshall Law School
  • Baylor Law School
  • Boston College Law School
  • Boston University
  • Catholic University of America, Columbus School of Law
  • Chapman University Dale E. Fowler School of Law
  • Charleston School of Law
  • Charlotte School of Law
  • Cleveland Marshall College of Law
  • Drexel University Kline School of Law
  • Faulkner University Thomas Goode Jones School of Law
  • Florida Coastal School of Law
  • Florida International University (FIU) College of Law
  • Golden Gate University
  • Lewis & Clark Law School
  • Loyola University College of Law
  • LSU Law Center
  • Memphis Law
  • Mitchell Hamline School of Law
  • New York Law School
  • Northwestern
  • Notre Dame Law School
  • Nova Southeastern University Shepard Broad College of Law
  • Ohio Northern University Law
  • Rutgers Law School
  • Saint Louis University School of Law
  • Santa Clara Law
  • Seton Hall Law School
  • Southern University Law Center
  • Southwestern Law School
  • Temple University Beasley School of Law
  • Texas A&M University School of Law
  • Texas Southern Thurgood Marshall School of Law
  • UC Hastings College of the Law
  • UC Irvine School of Law
  • UConn School of Law
  • UNC School of Law
  • University of Arkansas at Little Rock William H. Bowen School of Law
  • University of Arkansas School of Law
  • University of Georgia School of Law
  • University of Houston Law Center
  • University of Kentucky
  • University of La Verne College of Law
  • University of Louisville Brandeis School of Law
  • University of Maine School of Law
  • University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law
  • University of Minnesota Law School
  • University of Montana
  • University of New Hampshire School of Law
  • University of Pennsylvania Law School
  • University of Pittsburgh School of Law
  • University of San Francisco School of Law
  • University of St. Thomas School of Law
  • University of Utah
  • University of Washington School of Law
  • Valparaiso University
  • Vermont Law School
  • Villanova Law
  • Wake Forest
  • Washington and Lee University School of Law
  • Washington University School of Law
  • Western Michigan University Cooley Law School
  • Western New England University School of Law
  • Western State College of Law
  • Yale Law School
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Dr. Katherine M. Bender and Joanna Karbel Dr. Katherine M. Bender is the programming director for the Dave Nee Foundation. She provides outreach services raising awareness about depression, anxiety, and suicide prevention within the legal community. The Dave Nee Foundation’s Uncommon Counsel program has been presented at 70 law schools across the United States. Joanna Karbel’s experiences working on college campuses strengthened her concern about the social, emotional, and transitional hurdles that many college students face with their demanding academic responsibilities. These concerns led to her current position with the CollegeResponse program where she supports colleges and universities in their efforts toward early detection of substance use and mental health issues.