What I’ve learned about mental welfare in law (by Aya Lewih)

Aya Lewih is a law graduate of the University of Technology, Sydney and newly admitted solicitor to the Supreme Court of New South Wales.

For those who have attended law school it is easy to understand how it can at times cause students to face elevated levels of emotional distress. Law students face immense pressure to maintain good grades, secure a clerkship at a reputable firm, be actively involved in their law students society and engage in extra-circular activities. The Courting the Blues Report revealed that in comparison to medical students, law students reported higher levels of emotional distress being 2.4 times more likely to fall into the high or very high grouping of psychological distress and 3.5 times more likely to fall into this grouping compared to the general population. Unfortunately, the issue is one which is self-perpetuating, whereby law students in distress become lawyers in distress. It is therefore essential to address the issue during the initial stages of law school.

I have found that the most important thing to remember as a law student is that it is a part of your identity, but should never be the definition of who you are. Just as you are a law student, you may also be a musician, an avid non-fiction reader, a debater or an athlete. Most importantly, you are a person and you deserve to be kind to yourself. For students who are facing mental health issues, it is essential to seek support from your university, medical practitioner, family and friends. Recovery is not impossible and with the right support network, law students can learn to manage emotional distress and achieve mental welfare.

Take advantage of the resources provided by your university – perhaps you can join one of your university’s sporting teams or make an appointment to speak to a counsellor. It is important to invest in yourself. If you’ve always wanted to travel, organise a semester on exchange or a trip during your university holidays. Maybe you’ve always wanted to learn a new language? Reward yourself when you achieve a goal and be patient with yourself when you’re not quiet there yet. Your self worth should never be reliant on you achieving your goals or high grades. Self-comparison can also be easy to fall into but it is not conducive to mental wellbeing.

I was once told that in order to win the race you should focus on your own techniques and approach. If you stop during the race to look at other competitors you will lose time and fall behind. The most important person to focus on is you.

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