In support of the well-being of lawyers across the professional spectrum—from students in the classroom to attorneys in all walks of legal life—we have launched a Mental Health Impact Blog Series, in partnership with alumnus Jim Warner ’92. Comprising deeply personal essays by community members who have struggled with mental health issues, the series provides restorative insights and resources to fellow lawyers in need. Read them all here.
The Mental Health Impact Blog Series coincides with a Law School-wide initiative, which will include lectures and workshops to support and promote mental well-being. To get involved in the activities or to write a guest post, contact email@example.com.
Please be advised that the following post discusses depression and thoughts of suicide. If you need help, please call The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, which is now reachable nationwide by dialing 988, or visit them online.
During my first year of law school, I seriously considered taking my own life. It was a case of classic depression. There was no great nexus event to cause me to feel that way. It was simply the anxiety of being in a new situation, mixed with sleep deprivation and too much caffeine that created a chemical storm in my body. The reason I did not go through with my plan is that someone convinced me to get help. The thing is, I didn’t look like someone who needed help – at least not by law school standards. I looked tired and withdrawn, but so did most people.
Dear BC Law Community,
The novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19), has created a widespread public health crisis, larger than what most of us have seen before in our lifetimes. This is not, however, the first-time members of our community have faced an unprecedented life circumstance. Your classmates deal with issues such as food insecurity, homelessness, chronic physical and mental illness, family tragedies, and much more, on a daily basis. When members of our community face these issues, absent a pandemic, we tell them to suck it up. We tell them the curve is what it is and they just need to find a way to solider through, or we contritely tell them “hey, B’s are still passing,” when we all know full well that in a tight job market, the arbitrary difference between a B and a B+ can be the difference between employment and unemployment. An overly competitive curve is all well and good when it only effects the have-nots, but when it starts to affect the “haves” as well, then we start paying attention.
Today I’m hosting a guest blog from Kadie Martin, a second-year student and Rappaport Fellow, about her experience with the Rappaport Center for Law and Public Policy at BC Law.
My first love wasn’t the law. It was public service.
A lot of people assumed I would go to law school because I studied (and loved) political science in college. But I didn’t always see that as my path. After college, I worked in state government, first in the State Senate, and then for the Attorney General’s Office, and saw how state law shaped Massachusetts residents’ lives. It always seemed that if I wanted to pursue a life of public service, particularly in government, I would have to make a choice. I could go to law school or study public policy.
But then I heard about the Rappaport Center for Law and Public Policy at BC Law, and all that changed.
The Rappaport Center, led by Executive Director Lissy Medvedow and Faculty Director Dan Kanstroom, convenes Massachusetts leaders within government, nonprofits, business, and academia to think through the most pressing, complex, and challenging societal issues of our time. This spring, for example, Senator Markey will be on a Rappaport panel about criminal justice reform. Rappaport hosts visiting professors, including former Massachusetts Governor Jane Swift this semester, and Senior Fellows in Residence.
Lawyers have their own language. It might be a little frustrating at times, but that is the reason we spend three painful years in law school learning how to think, speak, and write like lawyers. By the time we pass the bar, we have been equipped with a roadmap that allows us to navigate the complex legal arena. Of course, we are not the only profession with its own language. In fact, almost all professions have terminology that is commonly understood by those within the profession, but confusing to those outside of it.
This year I am participating in Boston College’s Juvenile Rights Advocacy program, and I am busy learning yet another language. Do you know what the acronym IEP stands for? Have you ever heard the terms FAPE? What is the difference between the BSEA and OCR? If you don’t know the answers to these questions, don’t worry, many people don’t know them. IEP stands for Individual Education Plan, and as the name suggests, it’s an educational term. The BSEA is a court that is used to resolve education disputes; it stands for Bureau of Special Education Appeals. The OCR stands for Office of Civil Rights, which is another court that can be used for certain types of education related claims. FAPE is a legal term that stands Free Appropriate Public Education, which is a federal right and typically the basis for the claims that would be brought in front of the BSEA or OCR. As for CRA, it is not strictly an education term, however, many children who require specialized education services also require the help that a CRA grants. CRA stands for Child Requiring Assistance, and parents file them with the courts when they need the courts help to supervise their children.
Dear Boston College Police Department Officer,
A few months ago, I parked my car (crookedly) in the Newton lot and began a mad dash to the building with two large folders in my hand. I was wearing heels that I didn’t know how to walk in, and I was late for a meeting with my clinic supervisor. Out of the corner of my eye I noticed you coming up behind me, and I instantly tensed. Instinctively, I sped up my pace and ignored the fact that me power-walking in heels was a recipe for a broken neck. After a few seconds you passed me, and opened the door I was about to walk through, which was a good thing because if I had tried to open it for myself, I would have likely spilled hundreds of pages of confidential client information all over the steps. You laughed and made a joke about them working us students too hard. I laughed too, though my laugh was a nervous and relieved one. I muttered a thanks and rushed through the door.
I don’t know if you realized how anxious I was, but if you did, I want to take this moment to apologize. I full-heartedly believe that it is wrong to judge someone based on appearances, but that is exactly what I did to you that morning. I didn’t see a person or a member of my community walking up behind me, I only saw your uniform. I understand that may sound odd to you, because as a police officer, you are labeled as the good guy. One of the first lessons we learn as children is that if you need help, find a police officer. In theory, seeing a police officer should instill feelings of safety and security and for most people it probably does, but it’s a bit more complicated for me and many of my fellow people of color. When I see you, I don’t feel safe and secure, I feel anxious and apprehensive. I don’t necessarily think you mean me harm, but I’m never quite sure what your intentions are.
I am happy to host a guest blog today from third-year student Imran Hossain on a very important subject for law students and lawyers.
I am a 3L. I have a job that I am excited about, working for a firm that I love. I have the most amazing family and friends. Yet I am anxious–and it’s taken me a while to understand that this is totally okay.
Being a huge sports fan throughout my life, I have constantly admired and tried to emulate athletes and have a great deal of respect for Kevin Love and DeMar DeRozan (among others) who are pushing the conversation on mental health forward. While awareness of mental health issues in the legal profession is important, I believe sharing effective coping strategies is even more important. In that vein, I’d like to open up about how I cope with anxious times.
Please excuse the title. It’s meant to be very tongue in cheek, but it summarizes what had been my approach to life for a very long time. When my mother died, everyone around me expected me to go into a state of extreme denial. After all, I was only a six-year-old little girl; how could I possibly understand the permanence of death, let alone be emotionally equipped to handle it? People thought they had to constantly explain it to me–every holiday, every birthday, well-meaning relatives and family friends would remind me why my mother wasn’t there. But I already knew. I knew why my mother wasn’t coming home from the moment my father picked me up from school and told me she had died in her sleep that morning.
I might have been a six-year-old little girl, but I was also the younger version of the left-brained, analytical future lawyer I am today. I might not have had the emotional maturity to cope with death, but I had the intellectual maturity to understand what it was. I knew I couldn’t press a reset button like I could on my Nintendo, nor could I pray to God or write to Santa to bring her back for Christmas. Gone was gone and I knew what that meant.
So why didn’t I cry?
1-Take Advice with a Grain of Salt
First-year law students love looking for advice and seasoned law students love giving it. It reminds us that we are no longer the new kids on the block and it makes us feel better about our overzealous course loads, far too many extracurriculars, and that interview we did two weeks ago that we’re still obsessing over. You want some advice, we’ve got it! The catch; that advice may not always be right for you.
Now, before you decide to purchase a garlic necklace to repel your friendly 2L and 3L mentors, hear me out. I am not saying the advice you get will be bad. We’ve all gone through 1L, most of us have passed all of our subjects, a few select unicorns have gotten A’s on those subjects, and most of us really do know what we’re doing. You should hear us out and try some of the study tips we give you–just make sure not to double down on them if they aren’t working. When a 2L approaches you and says, “this is the best way to study,” what they are really saying is “this is how I studied, and I did well, so it must be the best way.” Insert biggest eye roll here!
I have been grappling with the sometimes-tenuous relationship between my expectations and reality since I was a six-year-old girl, kissing my perfectly healthy mother goodbye before school. When I got off the school bus that afternoon, I expected my mother to be waiting for me at the bus stop, a snack to be on the table, and my father to be at work. Instead, it was my father waiting for me, no snack, and the news that my mother had taken a nap that morning and had never woken up.
Several years after my mother’s death, I was diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder, but I think emptiness is a much more complete way to describe what was happening inside my head. When people think of depression they think of sadness and tears, but depression is more like a parasite that sucks away all human emotions; happiness, anger, even sadness cannot exist as long as depression is present. Being depressed is like being locked behind a one-way mirror; isolated, invisible to your loved ones, and forced to watch them live their happy lives without you.