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Law School Student Leadership Plans Mental Health Initiatives

Built in 1883, Austin Hall is among Harvard Law School’s oldest buildings.
Built in 1883, Austin Hall is among Harvard Law School’s oldest buildings. By Amy Y. Li
By Jamie D. Halper, Crimson Staff Writer

The Law School student government will conduct a mental health survey in early November as part of a broader effort to address mental health issues on campus.

Amanda Lee, the Law School student government vice president, said that University Health Services and the Law School’s Student Mental Health Association are also working on the survey. The Student Mental Health Association will also host a series of information sessions.

“The survey will focus kind of on three different topics: helping individual students diagnose incidents, and also measuring adequacy of services and whether they’re accessible or not on campus...and also the culture of mental health and stigma at the Law School,” Lee said.

The Law School survey follows a similar study conducted at Yale Law School in 2014. That survey revealed that 70 percent of the 296 students in the sample group struggled with mental health at some point during their time in law school. Of the 80 percent of these students that said they considered getting help, only 50 percent did.

While the data at Yale is indicative of mental illness concerns with many law students, Lee said the Law School’s larger size underscores the importance of collecting school-specific data.

“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.”

Lee said that character and fitness questions on the Bar exam, the professional test for those entering the legal profession, often deter people from seeking mental health resources they might otherwise benefit from. The Student Mental Health Association’s president Terry M. Spinelli said the group is working to plan events about the Bar exam questions to give students more concrete information regarding the test’s expectations.

“People are afraid that either talking about their struggles with mental health issues, or creating a record of having sought treatment for mental health issues might then lead them to have to select answers on that portion of the Bar that will then make it difficult for them to pass, or even sit for the Bar,” Spinelli said.

Student Government is also partnering with Parody, a comedy musical production company at the Law School, to film a series of videos addressing mental health issues and resources on campus, according to Adrian D. Perkins, the president of the Law School’s student government. He also said he thinks that the legal profession faces significant mental health issues, even beyond law school.

“There’s a lot of literature and studies that have been done, especially in the corporate world, that people struggle with mental health when you think about the pressures of all the billable hours we have to meet and various factors,” Perkins said.

—Staff writer Jamie D. Halper can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @jamiedhalper.

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