ALSA launched very successful campaign in 2008-09 to raise awareness of the high level of excessive stress, anxiety and depression suffered by law students and the resources available to them. This year ALSA hopes to release another Depression Handbook in conjunction with BeyondBlue, which will expand on the initiatives that can be implemented by LSS’s to help adequately deal with these issues.
ALSA produced a Depression Handbook in conjunction with BeyondBlue, which can be found here:
ALSA Depression Handbook (1.5MB .pdf)
In 2009-10 one of ALSA’s priorities is to investigate the link between certain assessment practices and excessive stress. While this is only one possible reason for excessively stressed law students, it is a reason that can be easily fixed.
ALSA’s concerns were reported in the media:
Lawyer’s Weekly article, 9 February 2009 http://www.lawyersweekly.com.au/blogs/matters_briefs/archive/2010/02/09/law-exam-stress-must-be-eased-alsa.aspx).
ALSA’s position on the connection between types of assessment and excessive stress has been reported in the media. ALSA would ideally like to see mandatory 100% exams and 24-hour take-home exams eliminated for the benefit of all law students nationally. Mandatory 100% exams provide students with a very limited opportunity to display what they have learned during a course, without any prior feedback. 24-hour take-home exams discourage students from sleeping during that time period, sleep deprivation having been cited as one of the reasons for the high level of depression among law students.
Please click here for ALSA's Assessment Practices Policy, endorsed by ALSA's members in July 2010
ALSA was pleased to see that a majority of law schools that discourage or prohibit these assessment practices when it raised them at a recent meeting of the Council of Australian Law Deans (CALD) and hopes to continue working with CALD to further investigate the impact of assessment practices on student health and well being.
For more information on the high level of depression and attitudes to it within the law schools and the legal profession, see:
Courting the Blues: Attitudes toeards depression in Australian law students and legal practitioners, Research Monograph of the Brain and Mind Research Institute, University of Sydney http://www.bmri.org.au/research/mental-health-clinical-translational-programs/lawreport.pdf
In 2011, the ALSA LSS Mental Health Supplement was published. You can download it here. (9.65MB .pdf)
In July 2012, ALSA saw the Law Institute of Victoria host the ALSA Mental Health Awareness Evening, and launch of the 2011-2012 ALSA Education mental health publication Defending Your Sanity. You can download it here (.pdf). This publication is considered the next step in addressing the serious concerns about mental health and wellbeing in law school, and particularly in the legal sector.
ALSA was delighted to have President Michael Holcroft introduce guest speaker the Hon. Keith Mason AC QC, Chairman of the Tristan Jepson Memorial Foundation. The Hon. Mason took time to speak to guests about the importance of mental health awareness and the stark statistics within the legal fraternity.
ALSA Vice-President (Education) Aimee Riley says: “This publication was produced with the intention of being a toolbox to address the issues faced by a disproportionate amount of law students throughout their studies and practice within the legal fraternity. The focus of ‘Defending Your Sanity’ is to counteract stress and anxiety, and to provide colleagues with proactive non-burdensome strategies to implement with ease into everyday life."
Read the full press release here. (251KB .pdf)