Written by Joanna Hughes

A growing body of evidence points to “pervasive mental health issues” within the legal profession, including on campus. Enter wellness rooms, areas where students can focus on themselves instead of on the rigors of law school. Here’s a closer look at the trend, as reported by US News & World Report.

A Place to Unwind

After watching Brennan Gaeth struggle with addiction and ultimately succumb to the condition, family members of the University of Minnesota Law School graduate funded a wellness room at his alma mater in his honor. Outfitted with couches, blankets, yoga mats, and a therapy lamp, as well as art supplies like water painting and coloring materials, the room provides a space for students to “de-stress without the distractions of technology or homework.”

The law school’s assistant dean of students said, “What we know from recent studies of law students and lawyers is if we don’t attend to mental health issues...things could go very south. Our future clients need our students to be healthy and to be able to take care of themselves.”

Another school promoting the importance of wellness is Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law. It has been honored with the Indiana State Bar Association's Erik Chickedantz Law School Fitness Award for its Wellness Week, which promoted exercise, yoga, and healthy treats and meals demonstrated by a chef, while other programs tackled mental health and financial issues. 

The Wellness Imperative

The hope is that other schools will follow suit by providing similar wellness spaces for their students -- support that is woefully absent at many law schools. In fact, according to a survey by Yale Law School’s Mental Health Alliance, only 62 percent of students experiencing mental health challenges ended up seeking treatment. Those who didn’t cited a number of reasons, including lack of trust in campus counseling services and confidentiality policies, long wait times, and fear that disclosing mental health issues would lead to career challenges.

In the hopes of reversing the trend, the report also set forth several goals, including expanding health insurance coverage for law students to include off-campus treatment, reducing wait times, prioritizing faculty training, implementing more student programming, and offering more support resources aimed at destigmatizing mental illness.

Joanna worked in higher education administration for many years at a leading research institution before becoming a full-time freelance writer. She lives in the beautiful White Mountains region of New Hampshire with her family.
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