Breaking the Silence: The Critical Need for Mental Health Awareness in Law Students

In a recent and contemporary survey, it was found that 50% of law students reported suffering from a form of depression and over 60% of students indicated anxiety. It is common knowledge that going through law school is no walk in the park. Law students face a wide variety of challenges that make them question their decision to join the field of study in the first place.

From academic stress to fierce competition and future career uncertainty the amount of things law students have to deal with knows no bounds. This is all because law is a very demanding field of study. It is for this reason I emphasize that mental health awareness and support are a necessity for the well-being and prosperity of law students.

In studies conducted in the United States and Australia, law students exhibited higher levels of depression and anxiety compared to other graduate students. While there aren’t adequate studies in Ethiopia that specifically target law students there are studies that show that roughly 34% of University students in Ethiopia showed signs of mental distress with more than 75% of those being in need of professional mental health care. In this regard, it is important to note that law students commonly show higher levels of mental distress than other university students and it is therefore plausible to presume that the numbers depicted in Ethiopian Universities might be higher if the studies focused solely on law students.

As of writing this article, I have completed my 3rd year of studies in the field of law at Addis Ababa University School of Law. From my experience law school was filled with numerous challenges with my levels of stress and anxiety spiking up during exam seasons. During my 3rd year of studies in particular I found it hard to maintain a balance between maintaining high grades, participating in extracurricular activities, and a healthy personal life outside of school.

I repeatedly found myself being overwhelmed by the amount of things I had to get done. As it is uncommon to seek professional advice in matters of mental health in the Ethiopian community I chose the alternative of seeking advice from my fellow law students who were also suffering from similar issues as me. It is at this point that I came to the realization that the issue of mental health awareness in law students needs immediate attention.

After discussing the matter with my fellow law students and after doing rigorous research online I have found techniques that help in maintaining mental health in law school. While self-care has a wide range of advantages in other aspects such as health and social life it also holds a crucial value for maintaining mental health. Integrating self-care practices like regular exercise, a healthy sleep schedule, and engaging in hobbies are important to maintaining mental health in law school.

Stress management techniques such as meditation and time management strategies can also help in maintaining mental health. Most importantly, however, seeking professional help is one of the best ways of maintaining a healthy mind. Getting advice from counselors and mental health professionals is a key component in managing the stress of everyday life and in every profession much less in the demanding sector of legal studies.

It is therefore highly advisable for law students to seek advice from their peers and counseling services available on the campuses and community. In this regard, it is important to mention that the existing custom of not seeking professional advice in matters of mental health that is prevalent in the Ethiopian community needs to be addressed. In addition to fostering a culture of openness, it is also crucial to establish institutional support, especially in areas of high levels of stress such as Universities.

In conclusion, mental health awareness and support are essential for law students to emerge prosperous from the pressures of law school. Addressing these issues needs a cultural shift towards a more open community and institutional framework that backs it. By fostering a supportive environment and encouraging the use of mental health resources, we can ensure the well-being and success of future legal professionals. Law schools must prioritize mental health to cultivate resilient and capable legal professionals.

Source:

  • Jaffe, D., Bender, K. M., & Organ, J. (2022). “It is okay to not be okay”: The 2021 survey of law student well-being (Washington College of Law Research Paper No. 2022-08). https://ssrn.com/abstract=4127297
  • Negash, A., Khan, M. A., Medhin, G., Wondimagegn, D., & Negash, M. A. (2020). Mental distress, perceived need, and barriers to receive professional mental health care among university students in Ethiopia. BMC Psychiatry, 20(1), 187. Doi: 10.1186/s12888-020-02602-3

Author: Yishak Baraki Desta, School of Law, Addis Ababa University (AAU)

About the Author: Yishak B. Desta is a dedicated law student at Addis Ababa University (AAU) with a passion for Corporate Law. Yishak is a Fellow in the Young Lawyers Initiative (YLI). He is also serving as the leadership Board member of YLI. With an eagerness to embrace new experiences and connect with diverse individuals, Yishak is poised to make a meaningful contribution to the legal profession. He can be reached at: yishakdesta495@gmail.com

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