Georgetown Law Mental Health Alliance responds to student survey

October 10 marked World Mental Health Day, a reminder that mental health issues are present on all law school campuses, and the legal profession as a whole.    Students are mobilizing on campus to help combat mental health problems.  The Georgetown Law Mental Health Alliance (GLMHA) is a newly established organization at the Law Center, and both its founder and President have a series of plans to help law students deal with mental health problems.

“Through a student survey of more than 130 people that we collected in the spring of 2015, we discovered some troubling statistics about mental health in the student body: 82% of those surveyed has experienced stress or anxiety causing cognitive disruptions, 55.5% has experienced depression, 17.2% have had suicidal thoughts or ideations and 11.7% have abused drugs or alcohol,” Quinnie Lin, the founder of GLMHA, said: “Unfortunately, almost 90% of students did not know whom to see at Georgetown Law to seek advice on bar disclosure requirements regarding mental health conditions and treatments.”

GLMHA has put the report of the student survey on the the Student Bar Association’s website. The report reveals mental health issues were caused by students’ feelings of extreme pressure and isolation in the competitive environment of law school. What’s more, many students said that students often experienced two or three weeks of wait time for counseling services, which is much too long for them to struggle to find help when they are most in need. The report also found : students who have seen the counselors at Counseling and Psychiatric Services (CAPS) have mixed feelings about the care that they received, but have no way to providing feedback. Additionally, students felt that the physical space of CAPS, which is located in the basement of the Gewirz Student Center, is not conducive to the privacy that they need. Finally, the report addressed the need to provide students with more support during the medical leave process.

In the wake of such a serious report regarding mental health on campus, GLMHA President Briana Pigott said: “It is our mission to serve as a welcoming and inclusive group that works to destigmatize mental health issues on campus and encourage those who are suffering to seek the resources they need.  GLMHA seeks to create a community of law students who provide support to one another and work with the administration to improve the mental health resources available to students at Georgetown Law.” Recently, GLMHA planned to hold a dialogue about the unique challenges presented by the competitive law school environment and come up concrete solutions in order to help students thrive.

Starting conversations to give all students a platform to learn and share their experiences with respect to mental health issues is one of their most important plans. GLMHA  also offers an informal support network, with the goal of creating a stronger community and servingas a reference to mental health resources. Lin added another goal: “[T]o continue working with the administration to achieve the recommendations that we outlined in the report, such hiring a new therapist, training faculty and administrators to be more sensitive to mental health issues, creating a better physical space for CAPS and taking a closer look at the medical leave process is also significant.”.

The GLMHA will hold an event with members of the DC Bar’s Lawyer Assistance Program in November..

Finally, if believe you are suffering from mental illness, do not hesitate to reach out to GLMHA at glmentalhealthalliance@gmail.com.

By Zhen Liu

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