Take Care of Your Mental Health
Dylan Robertson (2L)
As you go through Orientation and Foundations, you are going to be told several things that you’d do well to remember in your first year. First off, you will learn your professor’s names, which most upper years will tell you are useful moving forward. You will learn who you need to go to if you’re having computer issues (Tim), need a jolt of caffeine (Steve), or want great fashion advice for the impending career day (Professor Yahya). Finally, and perhaps most importantly, you will learn that Connor McDavid is in fact not the Chief Justice of Canada.
Before you ask: yes, you will probably be tested on that.
Jokes aside, another topic that you will hear about a lot is mental health. I am sure that Dean Paton made mental health a keynote in his opening remarks at Orientation (if you’re reading this before Orientation, sorry for the spoilers), which just goes to show how seriously the Faculty takes mental health as an issue. There is a reason for this, which ideally comes as no surprise to anyone: law school is bloody hard. It is a curriculum that’s designed to test your limits and prepare you mentally for a high-stress career. There are going to be sleepless nights, full days in the library, and weekends spent trying to find the correct wording of your factum arguments at the bottom of a pint. For others, there’s the added stress of having to make friends in a new city or readjust to student life. Then there are also the feelings of inadequacy and disappointment which arise when law school grades inevitably fail to meet our undergrad standards.
It is important not to underestimate how quickly mental health issues can manifest in law school. It is a high-stress environment, which is conducive to it. They also happen to a lot more people than you may think. The main thing to remember if they do arise is that there are plenty of resources at the Faculty of Law to help you keep moving forward. If you need to arrange an appointment with a psychiatrist, Student Services can help arrange one. If you need a break from studying, student groups like the Mental Health and Wellness Committee routinely host events, like movie nights, to help you out. Student groups and intramural sports are also great ways to poke your head out of the fortified, brutalist bunker/bubble that is the Law Centre.
The most important help you will have in your first year, however, is your fellow students. Every student in this building has either gone through or will be going through the same challenges that you will. Everyone can relate, which means that everyone is a potential friend and pillar of strength for you to rely on for those days when you find it hard to stay motivated or even get out of bed. As someone who struggled heavily with mental health issues in his first year, the worst thing you can do is shut yourself in and rob yourself of the support of your fellow students. That rarely works in life, and law school really isn’t much different.
While it may almost be cliched to say at this point, the last thing you need when you are stressing over deadlines and recruitment is the fear of turning to someone for help. However, there need be no fear because there is no stigma. We all recognize how difficult this journey is, and we all want to see each other succeed. Law school is better that way.