What image is conjured when one thinks of the quintessential lawyer? Most likely, it is one of an in control lady or gentleman, composed and assertive; a potent package of expertise and know-how, all wrapped up neatly in say a Brioni suit.
Lawyers are trained to be precise, to expect the unexpected, to be perfect. Qualities of which are the antithesis of what it is to be human. One of the oft quoted proverbs is that to err is human. Yet, in Law schools across the country, an almost ascetic doctrine is taught to students- a doctrine of perfection. A doctrine that defies human nature.
Admittedly, the stakes at hand in our profession (liberties and rights) demand the utmost diligence and commitment. Nevertheless, the standard to which we hold ourselves is not only high, but unachievable.
“a culture steeped in unattainable ideals could be exacerbating mental health issues amongst students”
It should therefore come as no surprise that many students of law anguish in mental ill-health. Many studies have unearthed this fact. Key amongst them is one titled, Courting the Blues: Attitudes towards depression in Australian law students and legal practitioners.
The study conducted in honor of one such victim highlights the following: that around 77% of participants in the study had had an encounter with depression, that 61% of these students sough professional help and that only 33-37% sought help from a licensed professional. More statistics showed that students are reluctant to admit experiencing mental health issues.
“Many law students suffer from mental health issues, and many are reluctant to seek help”
The study, taken ten years ago, remains true today. It is therefore fortunate to see that key stake holders in the legal profession are taking the first step towards remedying the situation. One such proponent is former Barrister Anne Riche who will be hosting a webinar on Unisearch that will provoke conversation around this issue.