Promoting Law Student Mental Health Literacy and Wellbeing: A Case Study from The College of Law, Australia


  • Michael Appleby College of Law, Sydney
  • Judy Bourke College of Law, Sydney



A number of studies have been undertaken about the mental health of law students and the reports as to the findings of those studies have all expressed concern about the high levels of psychological distress suffered by them. Australian studies indicate that while university students suffer from emotional distress at a rate greater than that of the general population and at a higher rate than their non-student (age group) peers, law students are more distressed than their university peers. This has led to many calls for action.Most law students undertake their degree with a view to practising law. It is now also accepted that legal practitioners suffer depression or emotional distress at higher rates than other professionals, other workers more generally and the general population. Research shows that there is a strong correlation between high levels of emotional distress and the incidence of mental illness. Law students suffering high or very high distress levels are therefore at an increased risk of suffering a mental illness, most commonly anxiety and/or depression.Faced with this problem, the question arises: how should legal education institutions respond? This article describes the approach taken by one legal education institution, The College of Law, Australia (the College), in answering this question. The College identified the value in improving students’ mental health literacy and stress management and now trains its lecturers to deliver an educational workshop (the workshop) in these areas. The workshop forms part of the core curriculum for the College’s practical legal training program (PLT).Part 2 of the article reviews some of the literature about health promotion, health literacy, mental health literacy and promoting student wellbeing, providing the underpinnings for the intervention. Part 3 describes the development of the workshop for pre-admission graduate law students. Part 4 outlines the content of the workshop and delivery methods. Part 5 considers evaluations of the workshop, from both the student and teacher perspective and student learning outcomes, and Part 6 contains recommendations based on our experience in designing and delivering the workshop.