Research indicates that 96% of law students experience "significant stress," compared to 70% of medical students and 43% of graduate students. In addition, research shows that law students tend to be the most dissatisfied, depressed, and demoralized among any grad student population.
There is no need for law students to let mental health challenges hamper their ability to pursue a successful legal career. With a clear understanding of these challenges, law students are well-equipped to identify them in their early stages. At this point, they can explore safe, healthy ways to manage their mental health challenges, too.
Common Mental Health Challenges That Law Students Face
Law students, like any college student, are susceptible to a wide range of mental health challenges, including:
- Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD): Law students who experience ADHD may find it difficult to focus in class and outside of it. They are also prone to acting without thinking, periods of restlessness and excessive activity, and frequently forgetting or losing things.
- Alcohol and substance abuse: Research reveals alcohol and substance abuse can be problematic for legal professionals. Meanwhile, drug abuse is prevalent at college and university campuses nationwide. Law students may feel peer pressure to take illicit substances that can hamper their mental wellbeing. Or, they may take drugs as they try to cope with the stress of earning their law degree.
- Anxiety: Anyone can experience occasional anxiety. But, law students may experience anxiety that leads to persistent fatigue, difficulty breathing, gastrointestinal problems, and other emotional and physical symptoms. If left unaddressed, these symptoms can make it virtually impossible for law students to feel and perform their best.
- Depression: Approximately 34% of law students experience depression by the end of their first year, according to research. These students can experience ongoing feelings of sadness and loneliness, difficulty sleeping, and other depression symptoms that range from mild to severe. These symptoms may seem minor at first but can escalate quickly.
Mental health challenges are disabilities that can affect law students long into the future. Yet, there are many things that law students can do to limit the impact of mental health challenges on their everyday lives.
Tips to Combat Common Mental Health Challenges
Here are eight things that law students can do to take care of their mental wellbeing:
- Get sufficient rest: Try to get seven to nine hours of sleep each night. Also, read a book, meditate, or practice other mindfulness activities before bedtime. Then, a law student can go to bed, get sufficient rest, and wake up feeling refreshed and ready to tackle any challenges that come their way.
- Develop and leverage a support network: Engage with family members, friends, peers, resident advisors, and others who can provide support. Reach out to these people via phone, text message, and other communication methods. That way, law students can keep the lines of communication open and stay connected to those who want to help them in any way they can.
- Stay active: Exercise regularly to combat anxiety and depression. Furthermore, attend social events and take advantage of any opportunities to build friendships. This ensures a law student can stay active, grow their support network, and develop meaningful relationships with others.
- Maintain a healthy diet: Choose nutritious foods over fatty and sugary ones. A healthy diet can make a world of difference in terms of how a law student feels. Over time, this diet may help a law student lower their risk of depression and other mental health disorders.
- Remain hydrated: Drink a sufficient amount of water every day. The U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine states the adequate daily fluid intake for men is 15.5 cups of water for men and 11.5 cups for women. With proper hydration, a law student may enjoy an improved mood and other mental health benefits.
- Stay away from alcohol and drugs: Avoid alcohol and drugs, as these substances can make it tougher than ever before for law students to manage their mental health challenges.
- Enjoy daily rewards: Use rewards to celebrate the fact that each day represents a milestone in the quest to earn a law degree. For instance, setting up a time to go to a movie with friends following a law exam can give a student motivation to perform their best on the test. When the exam is completed, the student can celebrate their accomplishment by attending the movie with their friends.
- Seek out professional help: Don't use a lack of mental health awareness as an excuse to forgo help. At the first sign of any symptoms of a mental health disorder, it can be beneficial to find professional help. Insurance plans vary, but Affordable Care Act plans cannot deny coverage for mental health issues. Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and other benefits may also be available to provide supplemental income to law students who cannot work due to anxiety, depression, or other mental health disorders.
Be proactive to guard against mental health challenges in law school. This allows law students to keep these challenges at bay as they begin their legal careers.