Law students across the country are reporting an increasing need for support with mental health, wellness, and wellbeing while in law school. In a 2021 survey of law student well-being published in the University of Louisville Law Review, nearly 70% of respondents indicated that they needed help in the past year for emotional or mental health problems — a significant increase from the 42% who reported needing such help in the same study in 2014. Also, alarmingly, the percentage of law students reporting suicidal thoughts increased from 6% in 2014 to 11% in 2021. The number of students previously diagnosed with depression or another mental illness before entering law school also rose significantly during the same period. While many factors may be contributing to these results—including the lasting impact of the pandemic—it is clear that the wellbeing of law students should be—and must be—of paramount concern to all of us.
Law schools and law deans across the country are responding to students’ wellness and wellbeing support needs by sharing and developing new resources, expanding partnerships, listening to student needs, and creating opportunities to learn from one another. While there are no easy answers or quick solutions available, we are paying attention, seeking to learn more, attempting to draw and allocate more resources, and taking action. Specifically, law schools may be undertaking some of the following: increasing access to mental health services; offering confidential one-on-one counseling sessions; providing mental health clinics on campus; increasing academic support; connecting students with disability services on campus; creating dedicated wellness spaces that host guided meditation, yoga, mindfulness sessions; and hosting events centered on promoting mental health and wellbeing. We know that these resources, which are not easy to provide, are critical in supporting positive learning outcomes and helping students succeed.
Additionally, law schools are collaborating with faculty, bar associations, and other partners to raise awareness about mental health and wellbeing in law school and in the profession. From creating networks for support for students, to supporting student organizations focused on wellness and wellbeing, and encouraging open dialogue and communication about mental health issues, law schools are committed to reducing stigma and to leading the way in addressing these critical issues for our students and for the profession. Multiple studies have shown that lawyers are at risk for depression, anxiety, alcoholism, and suicidal thoughts. Providing students with the resources and support they need will not only help them maintain their wellbeing during their time in law school but also as members of the bar.
As law deans, we have a collective responsibility to guide the next generation of lawyers throughout their legal education and into the legal profession. Together, we can work toward this common goal by committing to sharing resources that will improve the mental health and wellbeing of all our students, and by creating a supportive and inclusive environment where students feel comfortable seeking help and addressing their mental health needs.
This website provides resources that may be helpful to a law school dean to better understand these pressing issues and their implications as well as help spark creative ideas and new practices, programs, partnerships, or policies that could be adopted on our various campuses as we tackle this important issue, collectively.