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Depression and Anxiety in Law School: A Bane for Law Students

By Arjun Badola

The competitive attitude that drives the Darwinian social structure that we live in drives students to not only overwork themselves but in the process, puts a negative effect on their mental health. The young population of the world is now at a threat considering that pursuing a professional degree is a challenging task and during this pursuit law students end up getting depressed or facing anxiety which affects their whole life. Despite the fact Law is considered to be one of the noblest and highest paying professions in the world, not many know the difficulties faced by a student to become one. Students in law school are burdened with tremendous academic work and things like peer pressure or Socratic method of teaching bring anxiety and depression disorders (example: imposter syndrome) among students. Law cannot be learned overnight as it requires a lot of critical thinking and logical reasoning. Reading a case involves a huge amount of mental labor. This, in turn, results in a huge amount of stress being placed on the law student. This also makes students prone to depression and anxiety. Depression and anxiety cannot only occur because of the burden of studies on students in law school but can also occur due to various other reasons, one of which could be peer pressure. 

A student feels peer pressure as when they try to “fit in” with the crowd. We are social beings, without socializing or interacting with others it is difficult for us to live. Students tend to get a feeling of “being accepted” and if that feeling is gone they end up feeling depressed. This stress of “being accepted” by the people around them makes a student more cautious and further leads to the development of The Imposter Syndrome. This idea produces anxiety and reduces the self-confidence of the person. 

When a person is depressed they may see themselves caught by issues for which there is no answer. The expense of leaving law school is excessively high. But the torture of remaining is unendurable. “Law students come into the profession expecting success- and then 90 percent are disappointed when they don’t rank in the top 10 percent. Further Silver says students are thrust into an unfamiliar learning environment in which the predominant Socratic teaching method undermines self-esteem.” Core features of the modern case-based Socratic method in law school include its (1) inquisitional format; (2) use of appellate cases; and (3) objective to teach students to “think like lawyers.” This method used by professors puts a student into deep thinking regarding the question asked. It involves a dialogue to dialogue conversation between the professor and student. Questions asked using the Socratic method focus on “why” or “purpose”. These kinds of the method are good for teaching as it brings out different thoughts out of a student but these methods do not suit everyone. People who have a good mental capacity to handle such high order thinking but this method sometimes has a huge impact on some people who can’t handle it. So, this method just adds on to the stress or pressure which students already face during their law school. 

In law school, it’s your thinking on which you are graded and not how much you can memorize the subject. The subject can be absorbed by the idea of rote learning but the way we think can not be easily changed, it’s a very long process to change our “common sense” or the way we think. So, things like the Socratic method of teaching, peer pressure and burden of academic work just add up to their stress level and leads them to face depression and anxiety in law school. There is a need to create a healthy mental environment so that the issue of mental health does not become serious for a majority of students studying in law school. 

Image source: NDTV

Arjun Badola is a second-year law student at Jindal Global Law School.

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