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Wellness at Weldon's Mental Health Panel to address depression and the impact of alcohol in the legal profession
There’s no question that the demands of law school can be all-consuming. Students often study late, don’t make time to eat properly, and don’t manage stress well, which can lead to burnout, anxiety, depression, or addiction. Wellness at Weldon is the Schulich School of Law’s student-run wellness committee that hosts and promotes various activities and events to encourage physical and mental well-being, such as spin classes, yoga, meal-planning sessions, and vegetarian cooking challenges.
On Feb. 14 at 4:30 p.m. in Room 104, Wellness at Weldon and Sober Support will co-host a Mental Health Panel featuring the following speakers:
• The Honourable Tim Daley (LLB ’91), who sits in the Pictou Family/Provincial Court and who taught Family Law part-time at the Schulich School of Law. He’ll discuss his experience with depression as a practicing lawyer.
• Jennifer Taylor, a research lawyer at Stewart McKelvey. She’ll discuss the impact of alcohol in the legal profession and how it can be specifically isolating to women and those who don’t drink.
• Dexter Nyuurnibe, a former Bell Let’s Talk national youth ambassador and current mental health advocate who has appeared on the TV show The Social. He’ll speak to the importance of continuing the conversation about mental health.
“It’s important for us to hear from people in the legal profession who manage stress well,” says third-year student Kaitlin Pierce, who co-chairs Wellness at Weldon with fellow 3L Julianne Stevenson. “When we look at the rates of mental health disorders in the legal profession, which are higher than in other professions, we recognize that we need to put supports in place so when students need to talk to someone, they know where to go.”
When we look at the rates of mental health disorders in the legal profession, which are higher than in other professions, we recognize that we need to put supports in place so when students need to talk to someone, they know where to go.
— Kaitlin Pierce, Wellness at Weldon co-chair
Those supports include the drop-in Peer Support Program for all students, which holds themed sessions such as for Bell Let’s Talk Day and exam prep. While there’s good participation in the events overall, Pierce says it’s challenging to get men to take part. Registration for the spin class filled up in one day, but of the 35 students who showed up, only five were male.
“Women tend to talk more about their feelings, which explains their higher participation rates, but it’s important for men to be part of our programs too,” says Pierce. “I think people will be excited to see Judge Daley and hear his story, and Dexter is the ‘celebrity’ speaker.” Those attending the panel may also be excited about the catering, which will be provided by Fujiyama Sushi.
Pierce and Stevenson have prepared questions for the speakers, including:
• How are members of the legal profession uniquely affected by mental health issues?
• How are students and youth uniquely affected?
• How can awareness of our own mental health improve our practice and service to our clients and communities?
• How would you recommend starting a conversation with someone about their mental health?
• What are some ways we can balance good self-care practices with school and work commitments?
Personally, Pierce unwinds by making an effort to socialize outside of the law school bubble. She feels it’s important to have a life outside Weldon, “because if you don’t, the stressors of law school can become bigger than they really are,” she says. Her advice? Find time to do things off-campus that recharge you, and don’t feel guilty about taking that time for yourself.
“Mental health affects all of us – yourself, your classmates, and your colleagues,” says Pierce. “We’re hoping this panel will teach us what we should put in our stress-management toolbox.”
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