Three quarters of all lifetime cases of mental illness begin by the age of 24 and as such, many young adults find themselves facing these issues upon graduation, while they are also coping with the budding pressures to complete their degree, pay off student loan debt, and find a job in their field.
For one group of graduates in particular, the risk of developing depression is much higher. While law students enter their graduate program with statistics on par with their peers, by their third year, an overwhelming 40% report feeling depressed. Law school is often known for its rigorous coursework and demanding expectations, but reported stress levels reach 96%, exceeding those attending medical school by 26%.
Unfortunately, lack of knowledge about mental health problems as well as stigma and fear of a mental health diagnosis keep many law students from seeking help. Lawyers are reportedly the most frequently depressed occupational group in the United States, ranking fifth in incidence of suicide.
The American Bar Association, the Dave Nee Foundation and Screening for Mental Health are working together to bring important mental health resources to law schools across the country. The American Bar Association has designated March 27th as Law Student Mental Health Day and hopes to raise awareness and educate law students and their families about critical mental health issues. Anonymous online mental health screenings will be available at http://LawStudentMentalHealthDay.org.
To learn more about this issue and how you can get involved, visit http://www.americanbar.org/groups/law_students/initiatives_awards/lshealth.html.
If you are not a law student but feel you may be struggling with depression, please visit www.HelpYourselfHelpOthers.org. There you will be able to take an anonymous screening and will be connected with local treatment resources.
ABA Mental Health Toolkit, http://www.abanet.org/lsd/mentalhealth/toolkit.pdf
G. Andrew H. Benjamin et al., The Role of Legal Education in Producing Psychological Distress among Law Students and Lawyers, 1986 Am. B. Found. Res. J. 225 (1986).
Helmers K.F. et al., Stress and Depressed Mood in medical students, law students, and graduate students at McGill University, Acad Med. 1997 Aug; 72(8):708-14.
Mental Illness Exacts Heavy Toll, Beginning in Youth. (n.d.). Retrieved March 9, 2015, from http://www.nimh.nih.gov/news/science-news/2005/mental-illness-exacts-heavy-toll-beginning-in-youth.shtml
The crisis on campus. (n.d.). Retrieved March 9, 2015, from http://www.apa.org/monitor/2011/09/crisis-campus.aspx
W. W. Eaton et al., Occupations and the Prevalence of Major Depressive Disorder, 32 J. of Occupational Med. 1079 (1990).
Photo Credit: Katie Hickey