Australian law students suffer high levels of depression, it has been found. A large national study of law students and practitioners has confirmed that Australian law students and their more senior colleagues report experiences of high or very psychological distress at two to three times the expected rates. Law students have much higher rates than medical students or other general students at the University of Sydney.
The study conducted by the University of Sydney's Brain and Mind Research Institute included over 2,400 lawyers, including 741 law students from 13 law schools (including those from the University of Sydney).
Importantly, the law students also reported less specific knowledge of depression, greater concerns about alcohol and other substance misuse and a greater reluctance to seek professional care. Further, the law students were more likely to expect that they would be discriminated against in the work place as a result of being recognised as a person with depression.
The study extends previous work in Australia by beyondblue: the national depression initiative in 2007, which had demonstrated that lawyers reported higher levels of depression and substance misuse than other professionals.
Professor Ian Hickie presented the findings at the third annual Tristan Jepson Memorial Oration on 18 September 2008.
In his lecture Professor Hickie emphasised that the willingness of the law schools, the Law Society and the NSW Bar Association to support the Study and go on to consider ways to greatly improve the situation was most welcome and urgently needed. He also talked about other professional and graduate educational groups, such as medical schools, that have had had to develop very active programs in partnership with senior professional leaders to achieve real change in their areas.