The college is one of the first 26 law schools in the country to sign the American Bar Association's Well-Being Pledge. The program brings attention to ways to improve the health and well-being of lawyers and law students.
Research shows that lawyers struggle with addiction and mental health problems at rates much higher than the general population and other professionals. To encourage those in need to seek help, WVU Law is working to change attitudes and eliminate bias related to addiction and mental health.
“We are making the wellness and mental health of our students a priority in our programming,” said Tina Jernigan, assistant dean for student life. “The statistics on substance abuse and mental health in the legal field are staggering, and we can no longer accept the status quo. By signing on to the pledge, we are committed to wellness in our student body and the legal profession.”
WVU Law has added student programming that focuses on well-being and addiction issues while offering more healthy choices at school events.
This year, the college is also collaborating more closely with the West Virginia Judicial and Lawyer Assistance Program. WVJLAP has provided funding to create a Wellness Room in the Student Services Suite at the law school. The organization also co-sponsored a presentation about substance abuse by Laurie Besden, the executive director of Pennsylvania Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers.
In September, two law students attended the 2019 National Conference for Lawyer Assistance Programs and supported the creation of a WVU Law Well-Being student group. The club hosts weekly walks and meditations, and it has sponsored programming focused on stress management and healthy eating topics.
“The college’s faculty and staff have also learned how to spot and best assist a student in crisis,” Jernigan said.