Looking out for the Signs of Depression and Anxiety
We all know that being a law student can be stressful. However, when the demands of law school are combined with the general stresses of daily life such as work, family, and relationships, it can all feel overwhelming. Mental health issues such as anxiety or depression may become an issue too, and it's important to know the signs and get some support.
If you’re concerned about yourself or a fellow law student, here are some of the signs to look out for and some tips for what you can do next.
What it can be like for you
Anxiety can manifest in many different ways and can be as normal as pre-exam jitters through to debilitating panic attacks and phobias. Common signs and feelings include:
Avoidance of anxiety provoking situations, such as not participating in moots or tutorials because of a fear of public speaking
Difficulty sleeping (includes things like waking up during the night or having trouble falling asleep)
A racing heart beat, sweating, hot and cold flushes
Depression can happen for many reasons, or none at all. It’s normal for life events, such as a relative passing away, to trigger these sorts of feelings. However, if you think that what you’re experiencing is more than a response to something terrible that’s happened, or there does not appear to be a cause, then it's a good idea to talk to someone about it.
Common signs and feelings associated with depression include:
Loss of motivation, such as not caring about study any more
Loss of appetite
A persistent feeling of sadness
Wanting to, and actually withdrawing from people, including avoidance of social situations
Fatigue and a desire to not get out of bed in the morning
Difficulty sleeping, including waking up during the night
Speaking about how you’re feeling can seem daunting, but talking things over can really help. If you’d rather not talk with a friend or family member, you can speak to your GP, or your university’s counselling service. Beyondblue offers a phone and online chat support service (details here), and you should contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 if you need immediate support.
What it may look like in others
Now you're probably thinking that some of these signs overlap, and you're right. Many of these signs can fall within anxiety and/or depression:
Avoiding particular situations;
Withdrawing from friends and not going out much;
Tired all the time or complaining of not sleeping well;
Not eating much; or
Doesn't seem like themselves (eg. lack of expression or excitement)
If you know someone who is showing one or some of these signs, then you may want to think about having a conversation with them to find out how they are going.
How to talk to a friend who may be struggling
The R U OK? Day campaign sums it up well: just ask! When going through mental health issues people often feel alone, ashamed and unable to talk about it. It's important to let your friend know that you're interested in how they are, that you care about them, and that you're not going to judge them. Let them talk and reflect back to them in your own words what you have heard them say.
If they don't want to talk about it with you, then let them know that you are concerned about them and that you’re available to talk if they change their mind. Also try to encourage them to speak with someone, perhaps a family member or their GP.
You can read more about anxiety and depression at beyondblue, or take a look at some of these mental health resources for law students.
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