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Pepperdine | Caruso School of Law

Mental Health Awareness Week 2019

This week is Mental Health Awareness Week, and the conversation around the importance of sound mental health, particularly as it relates to the legal profession, has never been more important. In an investigative report cited by Above the Law, "the landmark 2016 American Bar Association (ABA) and Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation study determined that 28% of licensed, employed lawyers suffer depression. The study also showed that 19% demonstrate symptoms of anxiety and 21% qualify as problem drinkers."

The legal profession is facing a reckoning when it comes to mental health.

The Parris Institute for Professional Excellence regularly works with students to illuminate topics and issues that law students may not find addressed in their curriculum. Mental, physical, and emotional wellness, as well as client relationships, ethics, and substance abuse...these are all important areas to address as students begin to form their professional lives. In a new video from the Parris Institute, 2019 alumna Tracy Smith shares her deeply personal experience with the topic of mental health. Addressing first-year law students in particular, Smith says, "As exciting as this time is, however, it is extremely important that you, your classmates, and your administration remain cognizant of the extremely strenuous nature of the legal industry that you are seeking to enter."

Tracy continues to share the story of her complete shock when she learned that in the midst of a high stress case, her mentor and friend took his own life. "In the wake of his death," Tracy explains, "I questioned my place in law school. I questioned my place in the legal industry...but then I realized the legal industry did not kill my friend." She then describes how she has been actively working on and watching her mental health for her entire life.

This week, the law school will host a variety of programming aimed at addressing the importance of positive mental health while in school. Students will hear from their peers and other professionals about the dangers to their mental health and other vulnerabilities they may face in law school, and they will also learn coping strategies. On Monday, a representative from the State Bar's Lawyer Assistance Program visited with students and provided a number of counseling and health resources. Law students are also invited to participate in the daily Mental Health Awareness events sponsored by the Pepperdine University Student Wellness Advisory Board (SWAB). And of course, it wouldn't be #MentalHealthAwareness week without a visit from the therapy puppies!

female student with a brown dog