This month, the American Bar Association Law Student Division has launched a mental health initiative to help law students battling depression, anxiety and substance abuse. The culmination of the project is National Mental Health Day on March 27. According to the organization’s web site, it will provide participating law schools with a mental health toolkit for student bar organizations and law deans to make available to students. Included in the toolkit is The Hidden Sources of Law School Stress a pamphlet written by Lawrence Krieger, a clinical professor at Florida State University College of Law.
One objective of the initiative is to help de-stigmatize problems with depression and anxiety among students. Often students avoid seeking help because they are concerned that they may have to disclose their problems in order to sit for the bar exam in their jurisdiction. On February 11, 2008 the ABA House of Delegates adopted as ABA policy a new Model Rule on Conditional Admission to Practice Law for bar applicants who have substance abuse or mental health conditions. Many jurisdictions may deem applicants unfit to practice for those reasons. The model rule, which is only advisory, would allow admission authorities to monitor such individuals for a period of time to insure that recovery is successful. It also provides for confidentiality so that those using its provisions will feel free to seek treatment without suffering stigma or denial of admission.
Locally, the New York City Bar Lawyer Assistance Program (NYC LAP) has a free, confidential service, available to attorneys, judges, law students and their family members, in New York City, who are struggling with alcohol or drug abuse, depression, anxiety, stress, as well as other addictions and mental health issues.
Source: National Law Journal, Leigh Jones, ABA Law Student Group Tackles Depression, March 12, 2008