6 September 2012

The University of Queensland Law Student Society (UQLS) will delve into the reasons for a high rate of depression, stress and anxiety among law students at a mental health forum this month.

UQ and law firm Allens will host ‘Mental Health in the Australian Legal Profession,’ forum at the University on September 12.

The program has a line-up of expert speakers including psychologist David Whittingham, Legal Services Commissioner (QLD) John Briton, Annette Bradfield, Deputy President of the Queensland Law Society and special guest Kate Carnell, CEO of Beyond Blue.

The forum is part of The University of Queensland’s Law Student Society’s strategy to stem the unusually high rate of mental health issues among law students.

UQLS representative James Semit said law students’ mental health issues were compounded by the pressures of academic achievement, relative isolation and competition between individuals, as well as the perceptions associated with the elitism of law.

“Students who study law are often top of their class in high school and come to university to find themselves at the bottom or middle of the university cohort, so they’re pressured on a personal level to improve their grades when often improvements are hard to make,” James said.

About three million Australians experience depression and/or anxiety each year with lawyers typically experiencing higher levels of depressive symptoms than many other professions.

Studies undertaken by Australian universities have identified law students as being particularly at risk of suffering from a range of mental health problems.

Last year a UQLS Equity and Diversity survey found that 47 per cent of respondents had either sought treatment for a mental health problem or had contemplated doing so.

As the UQLS Equity Officer, James believes he has an obligation to assist students in understanding how to manage and overcome some of these burdens.

“It’s not uncommon to hear of somebody ‘burning out’ or delaying tasks due to stress,” he said.

“To know this is caused by the pressure of law school is something that hits quite close to home and makes you question whether this pressure is worth the adverse effect on health.”

James hopes that the UQLS awareness raising initiative will be pre-emptive in encouraging law students to seek help if they are struggling to cope with the demands of law study.

“If we can tackle these issues it will have educational, personal and professional benefits for law students and, over time, the wider legal industry,” he said.

Support is available to anybody suffering from stress, anxiety and depression. Contact Lifeline on 131 114 or Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636.

Event details:

Event: Allens & UQLS Mental Health in the Australian Legal Profession Equity Awareness Event Date: Wednesday 12 September 2012 Venue:Holt Room, Student Union Complex, UQ St Lucia Time: 5pm to 8.30pm followed by light refreshments

Click here to register


James Semit, UQLS, j.semit@uqls.com
Melissa Reynolds, TC Beirne School of Law 07 3365 2523, m.reynolds@law.uq.edu.au