Our Law Students Need Support, But Where Can They Get It? A Q&A With the UC Law Society’s Wellbeing Officer
Law students and lawyers are some of the greatest sufferers of mental health problems, with some studies suggesting that Lawyers are 3.6 times more likely to suffer from mental health issues than non-lawyers.
Another study found further troubling statistics, with 18% of the 3000 law students surveyed stating they had been diagnosed with depression, 37% suffered from anxiety, 14% satisfied the definition for severe anxiety, and 22% reported that they were binge drinkers.
But what is being done about these disturbing numbers?
The University of Canberra’s Law Society’s Health and Well-being officer, Tyler O’Hare, spoke with me about the law society’s role in combating mental health issues, and his own responsibility in reducing these numbers.
Q: As the Health and Wellbeing Officer, what exactly is your role?
A: The Wellbeing Officer role is geared towards nurturing the wellbeing of law students. So we try to organise mindfulness and wellness events – like yoga – that encourage a positive mental state.
Q: Why do you believe it is important for this role to exist within the Law Society, and not just an overacrching role on the Universities student governance?
A: Honestly, I think it belongs in both. Mental health problems are a massive issue across all demographics, not just law students — we just focus on law students because that’s our role. So I guess that’s why I believe it’s important that this role exists in the Law Society because I believe it’s important for this role to exist in all societies or pastoral committees.
Q: The Law society recently hosted a yoga event, what was the reasoning behind choosing yoga as an activity?
A: This was blatantly my own personal agenda being pushed. I practice yoga in my spare time, so I can confidently speak to the benefits of it. I started when I was going through a period of wanting to turn my life around for the better, and it’s one of the things that helped me do so — so I’m always advocating for other people to give it a try as well!
Q: Were you disappointed by the low attendance?
A: Yes and no! The selfish part of me didn’t really care, because I still got to do it! And I got to do it in a small group with a few friends, rather than a big class. So in that sense, no, I wasn’t disappointed. But in the sense of ‘I think this is really good and I think more people should do it’, yeah, it was a little disappointing — especially because we were offering it for free, and sessions can normally get pretty expensive. So a lot of people missed out on a great opportunity.
Q: What can be done in future to promote greater engagement from law students?
A: Well it didn’t help that that was the day Facebook and Instagram decided to crash! Not being able to post reminders and last minute promos was an unexpected hiccup. Plus there was a lot of uncertainty on the day as to whether we would get to do it outside as originally planned. I think in future, especially coming into winter when we’re guaranteed to be inside, we can present a more coherent message (and hopefully social media doesn’t crash again in the meantime).
Q: What future events will you consider hosting in relation to health and wellbeing?
A: We’ll definitely be looking at hosting more yoga. We just need to reach that tipping point where someone realises it’s fun and they tell to friends and they tell two friends and it gets all Wayne’s World. Other than that, we’ve got a few other things up our sleeve. Last year we hosted The Honourable Justice Kirby at our Fail Day event, which we’ll be running again this year with a new speaker — so watch this space!
The University of Canberra also offers a number of mental health services:
We're always here to help you! Should you find yourself in need of assistance, there's always someone you can call…
If you, or anyone you know requires assistance with mental health, please call;
Lifeline: 13 11 14
The Crisis Assessment and Treatment Team (CATT): 1800 629 354
The University of Canberra has a free counselling service, available to all UC students, which operates from 9am till 5pm on weekdays.