MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES AMONGST LAWYERS AND LAW STUDENTS DURING COVID:

This Article Is Written By Anisha Chatterjee.

INTRODUCTION:

The whole world went on lockdown in March 2020 when the novel coronavirus started spreading everywhere like wildfire. Its alreadyAugust, and a lot of nations have been able to completely defeat coronavirus, while others have been able to decrease the spread by strict lockdown protocol. But unfortunately, India is not one of them. Cases are increasing each day, and the exponential growth curve shows no signs of decrease.

This is an uncertain time. Even as some places start to open up again after months of lockdown, the end is still a long way off. It is normal to feel distressed, frustrated and cut off by continued social distancing. Living in the age of coronavirus has a profound effect on one’s mood.

MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES AMONGST LAWYERS:

A lot of people are working from home but most lawyers, unfortunately are not able to.  A profession like law requires high levels of human contact and physical preparation at every level. Unlike other jobs, one can’t sit in front of a computer all day long and do their job. The lockdown has prevented most lawyers from leaving their houses and going to work, and this has hit them hard. From having high levels of human interaction on a daily basis, they have gone to having to stay at home for weeks, with no information as to when this pandemic will end. This has caused a lot of physical and mental health issues amonst lawyers, like depression, anxiety, eating disorders, psychosis, etc.

There are many reasons as to why lawyers are being hit by this pandemic more than any other profession. Some of them are:

1. Most lawyers tend to be driven perfectionists, which is often why they enter such a difficult profession. Having to sit at home and not being able to get a specific amount of work done can lead to them having various psychological issues.

2. Lawyers have a habit of constantly scanning the horizon, trying to predict the next threat. They constantly ask the question, ‘What’s the worst thing that could happen?’ As a result, lawyers are in permanent ‘fight or flight’ mode, constantly on guard, and a pandemic that has shows no signs on decreasing is probably one of the worst things that could happen to them.

3. Most lawyers are self employed and there is great uncertainty of their future. With the economy crashing, they have no idea how they are going to bounce back, or get new clients. This fear of not having any work is also contributing to many health issues.

4. Being a lawyer is about solving people’s problems. But in this situation, when lawyers arent being able to solve their own problems  is leading to cases of self doubt and helplessness in their minds.

MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES AMONGST LAW STUDENTS:

Lawyers arent the only people who are having problems adjusting to ‘the new normal’. Research has suggested that law students are having an equally hard time coping up with online classes, examinations, projects and assignments, all while having to stay at home.

Research has shown that depression among law students is 27% after one semester, 34% after 2 semesters, and 40% after 3 years. Stress among law students is 96%, compared to 70% in medical students and 43% in graduate students. Entering lawschool, law students have a psychological profile similar to that of the general public. After law school, 20-40% have some sort of psychological dysfunction. In the first couple of years of lawschool, most students experience significant increase in depression and anxiety. All of this, coupled up with the students having no physical interaction, and staying indoors studying and attending classes at all times is leading to a plethora of mental health issues.

Some reasons why law students are being affected more by this than other students are:

1. Law students are used to a sort of uniformity in their lives. This uniformity is being disrupte, and they have been forced to adapt to the complete opposite lifestyle that they are used to leading, in a very short time period. This may lead to mental health problems.

2. A majority of the law curriculum is based on activities like seminars, moot courts, interactive sessions, etc. All of these have either been cancelled, or been shifted to the online format. Law students have been made face to face with a huge change, and they have gone from high amounts of physical interaction, to barely any physical interaction. A lot of students may not be abe to cope with such a change.

3. All this, added to the pressure of online classes, timely submissions, examinations and vivas has lead to depression, anxiety, eating disorders, etc in law students.

HOW TO OVERCOME THIS??

Many people still don’t give mental health issues due importance. Mental health is not just depression, and people need to stop using the term “I a depressed” everytime they feel sad about something. This word has a deep and heavy connotation, and must not be thrown around so lightly. Mental health is NOT a taboo topic, and people need to speak up about this topic.

It takes a lot for someone to understand that they are going through and ask for help. Stop treating people with mental health issues as a crazy person in need of a psychiatrist. Words like these, even though sometimes meant as a joke, have a huge impact on people. Also, mental health is serious, and should never be reduced to jokes. There are many ways to raise awareness, but making jokes is not one of them.

In a situation such as the present, it is very hard for people to not fall into a slump, so we must do everything to ensure good physical and mental health of ourselves and those around us. Eating and sleeping properly, ensuring social interaction via phone calls, text messages, video calls, and doing some basic exercise like going on small walks in and around places with not too many people (with adequate protection from the virus) are some of the ways we can make sure to take care of ourselves. By doing this, we are bringing about a healthy balance in our lives, and trying to make the best out of a difficult situation.

CONCLUSION:

These are difficult times for all of us, for some more than the others. But we must keep faith, that it will all get better, and our lives will eventually fall back into place. Till then, we have to make do with the given situation, and take care of ourselves and our loved ones.

Sources:

https://www.helpguide.org/articles/depression/dealing-with-depression-during-coronavirus.htm

https://www.lclma.org/2019/01/18/the-full-weight-of-law-school-stress-on-law-students-is-different/

http://www.daveneefoundation.org/scholarship/lawyers-and-depression/#:~:text=Depression%20among%20law%20students%20is,and%2043%25%20in%20graduate%20students.https://www.abajournal.com/voice/article/lawyers_weigh_in_why_is_there_a_depression_epidemic_in_the_profession

Sources:

https://www.helpguide.org/articles/depression/dealing-with-depression-during-coronavirus.htm

https://www.lclma.org/2019/01/18/the-full-weight-of-law-school-stress-on-law-students-is-different/

http://www.daveneefoundation.org/scholarship/lawyers-and-depression/#:~:text=Depression%20among%20law%20students%20is,and%2043%25%20in%20graduate%20students.

https://www.abajournal.com/voice/article/lawyers_weigh_in_why_is_there_a_depression_epidemic_in_the_profession

https://www.lclma.org/2019/01/18/the-full-weight-of-law-school-stress-on-law-students-is-different/

http://www.daveneefoundation.org/scholarship/lawyers-and-depression/#:~:text=Depression%20among%20law%20students%20is,and%2043%25%20in%20graduate%20students.

https://www.abajournal.com/voice/article/lawyers_weigh_in_why_is_there_a_depression_epidemic_in_the_profession

https://www.lclma.org/2019/01/18/the-full-weight-of-law-school-stress-on-law-students-is-different/

http://www.daveneefoundation.org/scholarship/lawyers-and-depression/#:~:text=Depression%20among%20law%20students%20is,and%2043%25%20in%20graduate%20students.

https://www.abajournal.com/voice/article/lawyers_weigh_in_why_is_there_a_depression_epidemic_in_the_profession

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