Oct. 18, 2018 - University of Houston Law Center students did yoga, spent time with therapy dogs and other animals at a petting zoo and participated a variety of other activities from Oct. 8-11 during Mental Health Week and National Mental Health Day for Law Schools on Oct. 10.
The initiative was organized by Stephanie Gallo, Senior Career Development Specialist in the Career Development Office, Monica Mensah, Director of Student Advisement and Sondra Tennessee, Associate Dean of Student Affairs, which make up the UHLC Wellness Team.
"Law students have always experienced stress, anxiety, depression, substance abuse to list a few. By hosting Mental Health Week, the UH Law Center is letting students know that their mental health, sobriety and overall well-being matter," Tennessee said. "We want law students to know that they are supported in their quest to find balance in the midst of all of the things that are competing for their limited resource – time."
"Law students suffer a great deal of stress and our goal was to offer as many stress-relieving events and activities as we can to show our students that we care," added Mensah. "If we continue to recognize positive mental health and support our students in need, then students will begin to appreciate its importance."
The American Bar Association created National Mental Health Day for Law Schools to raise awareness and to help break the stigma associated with depression, anxiety and other mental illnesses.
On the first day of events, students took a welcome break from their studies during Therapy Dog Day, sponsored by Thompson & Knight LLP. Law Center faculty and staffers attended a luncheon led by Chris Ritter of the Texas Lawyer's Assistance Program, where Ritter described how members of a law school community can provide moral support for law students juggling a hectic lifestyle.
The third event of the week was a Health & Wellness Fair in the Commons on Tuesday. On Wednesday, the Student Bar Association co-sponsored a petting zoo with ducks, goats, a kangaroo and sheep and other animals. Part-time evening students were treated to a dinner later in the day.
Mental Health Week concluded with yoga and smoothies sponsored by Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP, and a meditation session.
"I frequently tell students the way they cope during stressful periods in law school is the way they will cope when they are in practice," Tennessee said. "It is important for law students to begin to develop healthy routines to help them manage the stressful moments that the face now and then they will be able to use those techniques to assist with similar situations after law school."
"In the Career Development Office, we see a lot of students struggle with juggling the stress of the legal job search and maintaining academic performance," Gallo added. "It's important to us that the students know we are there to support them through these two demanding endeavors. We want to normalize issues surrounding mental health and encourage students to utilize the wellness resources they have access to at the University of Houston to reach their full potential mentally, physically, academically, and professionally."
Mensah referenced a number of additional services on the University of Houston campus available to Law Center students, including the Center for Students With Disabilities, CAPS, UH Wellness and the Student Health Center.
"These departments are always very helpful and willing to go the extra mile for our students," Mensah said. "We are so appreciative of their dedication to our students and commitment to mental health."