Stress-Free Zone

Texas Tech University School of Law creates therapy room.

By Matthew Setzekorn

Officials and students at Texas Tech University School of Law created a room in the law school library dedicated to helping law students de-stress. This therapy room, which features comfortable chairs and aromatherapy, is for law student use only and can be reserved for 30-minute blocks by one person for an hour maximum per day.

During the 2017-2018 school year, members of the Student Wellness Advisory Council, or SWAC, began talks to have a space for law students who were feeling overwhelmed. “We were thinking, What can we do? How can we solve this problem?” said SWAC student director Gunnison Matula. “So we went to the administration, to the Office of Student Life, and were able to secure a room in the library.”

Statistically, law students face more stress compared to other students during their time at school. This stress can lead to more severe mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety and can lead to suicide. According to the Dave Nee Foundation, 96 percent of law students admit to feeling stressed compared to 70 percent of medical students and 43 percent of graduate students.

The longer students stay in law school, the more likely they are to develop depression, according to the foundation. Only about 8 to 9 percent of law students have depression prior to matriculation. After one semester that number grows to 27 percent. After three years in law school, the number of students with depression grows to 40 percent.

After obtaining the therapy room at the end of the 2017-2018 school year, Matula said the new associate dean of student life, Sofia Chapman, helped the project take off for the 2018-2019 school year. With Chapman’s help, SWAC was able to begin the process of getting real counselors to help students with issues that a large amount of law students face.

Spencer Young, president of the Student Bar Association, said the implementation of a therapy room could help students go easier on themselves. His main goal was breaking the stigma facing law students, which makes them feel like they should not seek help. Students should pay more attention to their physical and mental well-being—recognizing when they are not OK—and seek out the resources available to them, Young said.

“Being aware of mental health and having those options available, students can begin to not only utilize the room but take in a larger picture and start realizing that it’s OK to feel bad sometimes,” Young said. “It’s perfectly normal to have your issues; it’s perfectly normal to be stressed.”

One of the major reasons law students have a hard time in school is due to the massive workload that comes with it, Matula said. “When I came to law school, I was thinking, Oh, OK, college is busy. What’s the big deal?” Matula said. “You have so much on your plate at all times. You basically have one test and that’s your grade for the entire semester.”

A lot of students begin to doubt their self-worth due to the pressure to perform well and ultimately falling short, Matula said. “You go from having all of your self-worth attached to having good grades or having praise from family and friends,” Matula said. “Then all of a sudden you go to school and you go, Wow, I’m in the bottom third of my class. I’m just not understanding this material and these other people are saying they do. Who am I? Am I really that smart?

Another reason law school can be stressful on students is due to many students being older. Many have families to take care of, which can add a lot to a person’s plate, Matula said.

The therapy room was specifically placed inside the law school’s library, Young said, so that students could have space in a close range to them. “The library is right down the hall from all of the classrooms,” Young said. “It just goes to accessibility, feasibility, and just making life efficient. We already have limited time as law students.”TBJ

This article originally appeared in the Texas Tech student-run news publication,
The Daily Toreador. It has been edited and reprinted with permission.

is a recent graduate of Texas Tech University, where he earned a bachelor's degree in public relations. At Tech, he filled the role of news editor at the student-run news publication, The Daily Toreador. He currently resides in Houston.

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