By Brandon Birungi-Sengendo, Managing Editor
It’s April and for a lot us, whether we are 1Ls about to finish our first year in law school or 3Ls about to graduate, we are not in the same physical or mental shape as we were prior to law school. I am willing to admit that personally one of the biggest lows of my 1L year has been the realization of exactly how much weight I’ve gained over the course of it, putting me at the heaviest I’ve ever been. Now, don’t get me wrong — this is not an article to blame the institution of law school, as my choices are my own and I know there are people who have maintained a healthy lifestyle during the semester or even became healthier during that time. But I am going to be addressing the culture that seems to be in law schools all across the country.
The culture I am referring to is this “Pain is temporary, GPA is forever” mindset where we as students are willing to sacrifice our emotional, mental, and physical health for the sake of good grades. We will justify it by saying everything in law school is only temporary and after we graduate we can undo all of this. But let’s ask ourselves, how many of us have seen our classmates, friends, and even ourselves develop some form of health issue? How many of us have developed some form of depression or mental health due to prolonged stress? How many of us have developed some form of substance abuse during our time in law school?
These habits are ones that plague the legal community to this day, as noted by a study of 12,825 employed attorneys which showed that 20.6% of them had some form of hazardous, harmful, and potentially dangerous alcohol dependency. With that in mind, it is clear that there is a drinking problem in the legal community and it’s somewhat of an elephant in the room.
For example, how many of you who are reading this article have used alcohol as a coping method to deal with stress, as a way to fall asleep after too much coffee, or as a reward? How many of you reading this have seen someone develop a drinking habit because of it? This person will say they are only drinking to take the edge off after a long week of classes or an especially brutal cold-call. This person will say swear this drink won’t lead to anything serious and there’s no need for concern, but as stress builds and the semester goes on, this drinking becomes more frequent as a result of said stress.
This stress can also cause mental health issues such as depression, which can come in many forms something some people don’t realize. As depression is not only the extreme where someone feels suicidal and wants to die. Rather it can be a prolonged feeling of emptiness or worthlessness. That someone will feel like all their efforts and attempts are meaningless as the end result is pointless and doomed for failure. And all of these feelings can feed into each other and lead to a vicious cycle detrimentally affecting the mental health and ability to perform in law school.
These issues are only worsened, as students are afraid to talk about these things to others or seek help for fear of being seen as weak. This mindset is one that plagues society as a whole unfortunately, as people believe that their issues are their own to deal with, they have no reason to deal with these issues because they aren’t so bad, or whatever self-justification is made. But all these really are just ways to try to sweep the issue, whatever it be, underneath the rug and hope it goes away on its own. But that shouldn’t be the way things are, as people should feel comfortable to reach out for help as for example, Cal Western offers three free counseling sessions per semester for mental health. Something that more people should be aware of is that while law school is only three years of our lives, the negative traits we can potentially pickup will follow us for years. Now is the time to start forming healthy habits to enable us to be healthy law students and lawyers.