LawWellness Encourages Students to De-Stress

UAlberta Law initiative aims to remind Faculty community to take time to relax

Priscilla Popp - 31 January 2018

It's no secret that law students lead busy and often stressful lives. Between preparing for moots, attending classes and completing assignments, personal wellness can sometimes be put to the back burner - or forgotten about altogether.

LawWellness, an initiative that started last year at the University of Alberta Faculty of Law, aims to change that. The idea behind the initiative is simple: support the wellbeing of UAlberta Law students, staff and Faculty by offering stress-reducing activities on campus. This year, yoga, stair training, pet therapy and adult colouring are among those activities.

Barbara Ann Dowker is co-chair of the Mental Health and Wellness Committee.

"When the LawWellness program started, the committee decided to collaborate with the Faculty to provide a student perspective on the program. The Committee works with the staff who organize LawWellness to come up with and implement events, all of which are promoted through the LawWellness program," said Dowker.

One of the staff members involved in planning is Rae Beaumont, Student Services Team Lead.

"The current emphasis on campus is that students are best positioned for success when viewed as a whole person. Participating in a wellness event allows them to revisit other talents or develop new ones; engage with other Faculty and students in a social environment; and develop resiliency by learning to step away from areas that are causing the most stress, even briefly," she said.

Beaumont also added that LawWellness is currently transitioning to "redefine what is offered based on student feedback and staff experience." This includes sessions that students both need the most and find the most relevant.

Daniel Downie is co-chair of the Mental Health and Wellness Committee. He noted the importance of meeting the needs of students.

"It's important to provide students with the tools they need to succeed in a high-stress program while also taking good care of themselves. Our hope is that through the Mental Health Committee and the LawWellness program, we can help foster law students' wellbeing and contribute to a healthy future profession as a result," he said.

LawWellness is just one example of how the Faculty has made the mental health of students a priority. In addition to offering weekly self-care activities (catch upcoming dates in every Monday's student events newsletter), a psychologist is also provided through the Alberta Lawyers Assistance Society program every second Tuesday of the month.

In 2017, Olympic champion Clara Hughes visited the Faculty of Law to speak on the topic of mental health. That same day, those in attendance were introduced to the parents of Michael O'Boyle, an alumnus (2004) who inspired the Michael O'Boyle Mental Health & Wellness Fund.