Ethics of Education and Student Mental Health

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Long title: 
Student Mental Health and the Ethics of Legal Education
Author(s): 
Larcombe, Wendy
Author(s)' contact information: 
University of Melbourne, Australia
Conference title: 
International Legal Ethics Conference VI
Conference location: 
City University London
Country: 
Australia
Year: 
2014

Mental health is known to affect student achievement and graduate outcomes at all educational levels. And law students are known to experience high levels of psychological distress during their time in law school. For example, empirical research investigating the mental health and wellbeing of law students in Australia consistently finds that at least one in four students report very high levels of depressive, anxiety or stress symptoms. These levels of distress impair a person’s daily functioning as well as learning and academic experience. High levels of psychological distress are also posited to negatively impact law students’ ethical and professional development.
In that context, there have been a range of developments in Australia to encourage legal educators and law schools to create educational environments that support students’ mental health and wellbeing. These include the adoption in 2013 of ‘Good Practice Guidelines for Law Schools’ by the Council of Australian Law Deans and the inclusion of a ‘Self-management’ standard in the 2010 Threshold Learning Outcomes for Law. This paper analyses support for the idea that law schools and legal educators have ethical responsibilities for law students’ mental wellbeing, as well as voiced resistance to that idea.

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