The letter criticizes the “damaging” popular culture stereotype about law school—that it must be a “grueling and overwhelming ordeal to adequately prepare students for legal practice.”
Student government president Adrian D. Perkins and vice president Amanda Lee wrote, along with the other signees, that each school plans to broaden their mental health outreach efforts through their own initiatives and in association with other campus student groups.
This pledge follows the Law School’s distribution of a survey last month meant to gauge the status of student mental health at the school. A similar survey conducted at Yale Law School in 2014 found that 70 percent of the 296 students in the sample group struggled with mental health at some point during their time in law school.
Prior to the release of the survey, Lee said it was necessary for Harvard to collect its own data about mental health.
“We wanted to have some baseline data for our community as well and Harvard’s quite different from a lot of schools because we’re just so large,” Lee said. “Having that information is really important for advocating for better services.”
The Law School’s Student Mental Health Association has also planned its own initiatives to address questions about the “character and fitness” questions on the Bar examination, the test necessary to practice law in the United States, that inquire about certain mental health diagnoses and sometimes lead students not to seek help.
In addition to Harvard, other signatories included student leadership at Columbia, Cornell, University of Pennsylvania, and Yale Law Schools.
—Staff writer Jamie D. Halper can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @jamiedhalper.