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Released on Apr 10, 2023
Monday Morning Message 4.10.23 You Are Not Alone

“Nothing can dim the light that shines from within.” – Maya Angelou 

“Self-care is how you take your power back.” – Lalah Delia

“What mental health needs is more sunlight, more candor, and more unashamed conversation.” – Glenn Close 

I’m often asked what trends I’m seeing in legal education. There are many, such as the rapid rise of online education and artificial intelligence and concern about the fragility of rule of law, but there is one trend that often surprises people - an increasing number of law students are struggling with mental health issues. See Well-Being In Law School

We navigated unprecedented isolation during the pandemic and students at all levels struggled to keep their heads above water. Although the wave of the pandemic is largely behind us, an increasing number of students are struggling. Wellness is at crisis levels. 

The law school stereotype is that law school must be a grueling ordeal to adequately prepare students for legal practice. The stress on students’ mental and physical well-being has become an accepted rite of passage of law school life. Yes, law school is and should be hard, but that stereotype should not be accepted. 

My highest priority as Dean is not only our students’ first-class, quality legal education, but also their happiness, mental health, and well-being. As a student-centered law school, it is our responsibility to take our students’ mental health challenges seriously and to promote a culture of wellness. 

For seven years, I served as President/CEO of the Centers for Families and Children and was the Founder and first Co-Chair of the Mental Health & Addiction Advocacy Coalition, which has since expanded statewide. I learned first-hand that a satisfying and purposeful life starts with taking care of yourself and helping others. I also learned that the ability to ask for help is a sign of courage and leadership.

Mental health issues have plagued the legal profession for decades. The American Bar Association Well-Being Campaign addresses the troubling rates of alcohol use, substance use, and mental health issues among lawyers. Legal employers are starting to address these issues in the workplace through taskforces, support and changing the legal culture. 

According to the 2021 Survey of Law Student Well-Being, 68.7% of respondents reported needing help for emotional or mental health problems such as depression or anxiety. 33% of respondents reported binge drinking within the past two weeks.  A large number of respondents answered yes to having experienced some type of trauma in their lives. 

Our students, staff, and faculty have stepped up to help our students reach their greatest potential for well-being, led by our staff Wellness Committee, chaired by Amy BurchfieldHead of Research and Instructional Services. In addition, Jaime GayAssistant Director, Student and Career ServicesJenna HosierDirector of Bar Exam Preparation, and our Student Bar Association’s Wellness Committee, chaired by 3L Gabby Hartstein, are finding ways to create a culture of wellness. Nick DeSantis, Assistant Dean for Student Success, regularly holds mindfulness sessions and encourages counseling support for our Law School community. Associate Dean Carolyn Broering-Jacobs, Sarah Beznoska, Assistant Dean for Student and Career Services, Academic Support Specialists Michelle Landever Bond and Bobby Stevenson, and Career Services Specialist Anne Wells also deal with these challenges every day.

This academic year, we have had a full slate of wellness-related events and resources-sharing opportunities:  

We also recognize that members of our law school community may be struggling in ways that cannot be solved with fun events. If you’re feeling alone, it’s important to reach out for support, whether to trusted friends, family, classmates, or a trained professional. See the resources listed below. 

Community Resources 

  • CSU|Law Health, Wellness, and Belonging page: One-stop shop for Law School and campus wellness resources, as well as community resources. 
  • CSU Counseling Center: Union Bldg, 220 – right across from the Law School. Meet with a psychologist or doctoral student in Counseling Psychology for mental health or adjustment concerns. Call to schedule: 216-687-2277. 
  • CSU CARE Team: The CARE Team supports the wellbeing of students. All referrals to the CARE Team should be sent to MagnusACTnull@csuohio.nulledu
  • Ohio Lawyers Assistance Program (OLAP): If you or a fellow student you know have mental, emotional or addiction concerns, contact the OLAP. Your confidentiality, and the confidentiality of anyone about whom you express concerns will be protected. Phone: 1-800-348-4343
  • 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline (formerly National Suicide Prevention Lifeline): Dial 988 

The toll on our students’ mental health is an obstacle to their success. If we are to hold true to the “unalienable right to the pursuit of happiness,” we have a responsibility to our students to do all we can to help them in that pursuit.

You are not alone. We are here for you.

Stay safe. Stay healthy. Stay Committed to Living Justice.

Have a great day. Have a great week.

My best,

Lee

Lee Fisher
Dean, Cleveland State University College of Law | Cleveland State University
Joseph C. Hostetler-BakerHostetler Chair in Law

For copies of past messages, please go to this link: Monday Morning Messages.

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