Some 36 percent of law students from 15 different law schools who participated in a study on law student well-being reported that they would be reluctant to seek help for a mental health problem because they thought they could handle the problem on their own. Would this same 36 percent of law students attempt to reset their own broken bones or conduct their own surgeries? I doubt it.
We need to change the way society, especially members of the legal profession, think about mental health. We need law students to seek help for emotional and mental health concerns in the same way they do for physical health concerns. One way to encourage law students to do just that is to make sure that law students know where they can go to get help for themselves or someone else.
It is not possible to list the individual services available to law students at each of the 200+ law schools. However, generally speaking, there are at least two different places on campus where law students can turn for help, guidance, and support. One place at the law school itself is the Dean of Students and/or the Office of Student Services. While the roles of Deans of Students may vary by school, much of what they do generally is to assist students with concerns (personal and/or academic) that impact students’ abilities to be successful law students. This includes, but is not limited to, housing concerns and disability accommodations. In addition, they may have to assist students who need to miss class for personal reasons, family crises, and so on. Most of the information about the Deans of Students and/or the Office of Student Services can be found on the individual law school’s website.
Another on-campus resource for students is the Campus Counseling Services (sometimes referred to as CAPS). Availability and accessibility varies greatly by law school. The majority of law schools have access to the main university counseling services. Often, the counseling services are free for students while some may require a small fee. Many university counseling centers have psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, and or mental health counselors on staff available to help law students struggling with mental health concerns.
We recommend that students seek out resources on campus as they are often free and conveniently located. We also recognize that not all law schools have a “main campus” to rely on. In addition, the “main campus” may be physically located in a different place. Moreover, law students may prefer, for privacy reasons, to seek help off campus.
In each state, a very accessible and affordable resource for law students is the state’s lawyers’ assistance program (LAP) or lawyers concerned for lawyers program (LCL). The national directory of the state lawyers’ assistance programs can be found here.
Often times, students do not know that they are eligible for these services or students assume that the services are only for substance use. The reality is that the majority of state lawyers’ assistance programs even have law school liaisons. All of these programs offer help on a variety of topics, which include, but are not limited to, substance use. Using the directory above, students should find the state where their law school is located and visit the appropriate website or call the appropriate number.
Suicide and mental health are national problems. Currently, there are a few resources available on the national level for students. The one we most often refer students to is the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-TALK). Please read more about the services they provide here.
A newer resource now available is a crisis text line. Students in crisis can text “START” to 741-741. For more information, please check their site.
This is a comprehensive website geared specifically to the mental health needs of law students. Everything from social anxiety to bipolar disorder is covered on this website, and it is all geared towards law students! Everything is free and confidential.
From the privacy of their own home, students can learn how to help friends and where to get help on campus. The information is available for someone in an immediate or acute crisis.
Lawyers with Depression
This is a website run by its founder Dan Lukasik, who is a lawyer living with depression. Dan wanted to provide support for those in the legal community dealing with depression. The site offers screening tools, articles, and guest blogs on the topic of mental health in the legal profession.
Dave Nee Foundation
The Foundation, named for a beloved Fordham Law student who died by suicide while studying for the bar exam, is a New York City based non-profit dedicated to raising awareness about depression, anxiety, and suicide prevention within the legal community. The Dave Nee Foundation offers a variety of educational programs and resources for law schools and law firms.
Statistics source: J.M. Organ & D. Jaffe, Survey of Law Student Well Being (Spring 2014). The results are on file with the Dave Nee Foundation.