College of Law students work to handle stress


Even though law student Andreina Rosa is looking forward to the Barrister’s Inaugural Ball this weekend, she has more on her mind than the new gown she’ll be wearing to the “law school prom.”

“It’s … gold,” she said as she pulled out her phone to show off a photo of the dress. “It looks kind of white, but it’s gold — here’s what the back looks like.”

Soon after, thoughts of the responsibilities she’ll neglect while wearing the dress brought her back to reality. She’s one of many law students overwhelmed with stress from school.

“We do have events to enjoy ourselves, but at the end of the day we (think) ‘Oh, I feel bad because I didn’t get this work done,’” she said, taking on a more serious tone. “Especially when the event is over.”

Rosa, who noticed her stress heighten after starting law school, said she started the Wellness in Practice program to offer help to other struggling students.

After their first semester of law school, the Dave Nee Foundation reported 27 percent of law students show signs of depression. After three years, this figure rises to 40 percent.

That’s why Wellness in Practice worked with Diversity Services and the Office of Student Engagement to host Food for Thought: A conversation about Health and Wellness in the Legal Profession.

This free event for students featured experts in the mental health and legal fields who answered questions and provided students with helpful tips to handle the stress on Monday afternoon at the Castle Board Room in the College of Law Building.

More than 75 students and faculty packed the room, enjoying picnic lunches and watching presentations about how to seek mental support in such a hectic college atmosphere.

The cutthroat atmosphere of law programs is a large contributor to the reported 96 percent recorded stress among law students, said Katherine Bender, programming consultant for the Dave Nee Foundation.

“It breeds competition, so everyone’s kind of isolated,” MSU Student Bar Association president Cameron Lawler said. “Day one, you walk in and you can cut the tension in the air.”

Although seeking help is the first recommended step for students who think they might have depression, Caroline Kingston, associate director for student engagement, said certain aspects of the bar application taken after law school might deter them from actively looking for help.

The 54th question on the application asks students about their mental health history, and Kingston said the stigmas associated with mental health frighten some students more than it should.

“The question itself may have a chilling effect,” Kingston said, adding the best approach to this question is to be open about mental health history. “Just knowing they are someday going to have to answer that question can be scary. But it’s important to clear up the misconceptions to examine what the question is really asking.”

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