Notre Dame Law School students last week participated in morning yoga, pet therapy, and a seminar focused on the power of positive thinking. According to Notre Dame’s Student Bar Association, the events are part of a larger weeklong initiative that aims to educate students about the mental health challenges particular to law students.
“This week is a checkpoint in the semester to bring awareness to personal health and the wellbeing of others,” said Ariell Bratton, 2L and Student Bar Association representative to the American Bar Association. “The fun events are a vehicle to relay important information about keeping safe and healthy, and to provide mental health resources.
“Our goal is to let people know they are loved and thought about, and that there are resources for them should they need any help.”
Bratton planned the week’s events with fellow 2L Lauren Nottoli, also ABA rep for the SBA.
The ABA encouraged student leaders at law schools around the country to sponsor educational programs and events that teach and help break the stigma associated with the severe depression and anxiety that are common among law students and lawyers. The week’s activities are in conjunction with the ABA’s Law Student Mental Health Awareness Day March 28.
“As law students, we spend a lot of time thinking about the things we need to accomplish and not about the things we need to do to make sure we’re taking care of our entire selves,” Nottoli said. “I hope that law students will walk away from Mental Health Week with an understanding of ways to deal with their stress, and better take care of their mental self. I hope that what we’ve done for them this week helps them especially as we head into one of the busiest times of the year, finals season.”
According to the Dave Nee Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to eliminating the stigma associated with depression and suicide, depression among law students is 8 to 9 percent prior to matriculation – about the same as the general public –but balloons to 27 percent after one semester of law school. That percentage increased to 34 percent after two semesters and 40 percent after three years. Reasons for the increase include increasing stress and having an imbalance in their lives, such as focusing only on law-school performance, according to the ABA.
“I personally deal with stress through exercise,” Nottoli said. “I am currently training for a half marathon, and learning how to run is something that has been really great to help my stress levels.”
ABA staff developed the Substance Abuse & Mental Health Toolkit for Law School Students and Those Who Care About Them, which included educational materials on depression, substance abuse, and other mental-health concerns and how to prevent and manage them.