News Flash: We aren’t having the correct discussion about mental health

Every now and then it is important to acknowledge how far we have come. Mental illness is now seen as a genuine grievance worthy of compassion and empathy. All major political parties in Australia have mental health funding as a primary policy objective. Men can open up about their struggle with depression or anxiety without it been seen as an affront to their masculinity. This was only made possible through millions of people choosing to have a more honest discussion of the reality of mental illness.

In the spirit of this gratitude, I want to talk about the danger of people who choose to over-simplify and cheapen the issue of mental health. The particular example I have in mind is the rise of ‘shortcuts to mental health’. The content is usually banal and self-explanatory, with advice such as ‘get enough sleep’, ‘meditate every morning’ and ‘learn to be happy.’ There is nothing inherently wrong with this sort of advice, but …

The problem is that they imply a simplicity to your mental health that just isn’t true. They enforce the illusion that your mental health is some kind of sickness that you fix by treating the symptoms.

I’m sorry folks, but that just ain’t how it works. Whether it is out of ignorance, or a deliberate choice to get clicks by piggy backing off a hot topic, this hurts those of us who still or will struggle with mental illness.

I decided to write about this after I was asked to speak at the 2019 Wellness for Law forum. At the panel, I was asked “What have you found to be the most effective strategy for maintaining your psychological well-being?”

The question bothered me because of how it painted the issue of mental health. It assumed that it was some kind of easy problem that could be fixed with just a few words of advice. Now, I’ll admit that I’m not an expert in mental health. But I can speak from my own experiences, and the hundreds of people who I have talked to about their mental health, to know there is some element of truth to what I’m about to say.

A mental health ‘strategy’ implies that if you execute the following steps correctly, everything will work out. It pushes forward this idea that so long as you’re eating right, and sleeping right, then you will feel better all the time. Even though each of these things are vitally important, we have to think about our well-being holistically. It’s about developing a consideration of our mental well-being as something that is one of, if not the most important aspect of our life.

One of the major themes of the Wellness for Law forum was resilience.

Namely, how can we develop resilience within ourselves so that we can deal with the trials and tribulations of life. Life is just going to get tougher after university, and that is the truth. Anyone that has gone through any kind of hardship knows that you can’t learn resilience. You experience something difficult, you suffer, and resilience manifests itself within you.  It’s not a reward that you get after you complete something. It’s a state of mind that develops once you begin to think in a different way.

Bertrand Russel once said that “if something can be said in a nutshell, that’s where it belongs”. Unfortunately, happiness doesn’t lie at the end of reading a well-being article or at the bottom of a to do list (don’t worry, the irony of me proclaiming this on a website about well-being isn’t lost on me). The solution is much deeper and far more complex than that, and depends on your own willingness to question the structure that have governed your life up until now. I am not saying there is no worth to Buzzfeed listing tips & tricks on wellbeing, but we need to keep the search within ourselves to find real meaning from life. This meaning is what will lead to resilience, and this resilience is what is crucial keeping mental illness at bay.

Written by Christian Lane


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We Asked How Law Students Deal With Stress. Here’s What They Said.

As a 4th year, I’ve had about eight semesters to figure out how to handle stress during exam time. Yet, for some reason I still make the same mistake of leaving all my revision to the last minute, and then flip-flop between nonchalance and angsty crying.

If you’re not feeling incredibly overwhelmed by the amount of content you have to get through in such a short week, then you’re a much better student than I am. But for the rest of us who may need some ideas on how to deal with all the low-key panicking, we asked a bunch of law students how they cope during the exam period.


“I like to break down the work I have to do, make to do lists and set achievable goals every day so I don’t feel too overwhelmed” – Elsie, 4th Year

“I deal with exam stress by having a detailed revision plan. By doing that, all of the workload can be visualised in the schedule and it stops me from overestimating or underestimating the pressure I could potentially be facing when preparing for the exams.”- Dave, 3rd year 

“I write down all the tasks I have to do, (using the important and urgent way of categorising if easier) and then schedule out my day/week. It helps me realise my tasks aren’t as insurmountable as it seems. I also schedule in a good amount of exercise and recreation to get my mind working creatively in a non study way”- Aashritha, 4th Year

“I make a daily study timetable to make sure I keep on top of my exam revision. I also think its important to maintain the balance between study and still doing the things you enjoy from day to day. “- Georgia, 4th Year

“I make sure my working environment, whether it’s my room or my study, is clean and tidy. There is so much research about having a clean working environment and how it can declutter your mind and make you feel so much better and more relaxed.”- Sam, 4th Year

“I try to have a study plan and stick to it. Do past year papers with friends and review the content together as it is makes studying less burdensome. It is also important to get sufficient sleep”- Priya, 3rd Year 

“I do what I find easiest first – for example, the easiest questions first – and get into the rhythm of doing work which encourages me to get into study” –Sarah, 2nd Year


“I make sure I prioritise exercise and getting outdoors! Going for a run or a walk after a big day of study is the best remedy for me!”- Liz, 4th Year 

“Even during the stressful exam period, it is important to always remember balance. Sometimes exercising or going out with friends can lead me to study better and have better concentration”- Dian, 2nd Year 

“Don’t forget to get some daily exercise, it helps with the stress” – Bahe, 2nd year

“I like to meal prep before SWOTVAC! That way I don’t have to worry so much about making lunch or dinner throughout the week”- Jane, 5th Year

“My tip would be to make sure you exercise – it can give you more energy and make you study more efficiently and also definitely don’t do it alone – it is best to share the pain!” – Harry, 5th Year

“When the stress gets really bad, my sisters and I blast some music and have a 5 minute dancing sesh”- Anon 

“Exercising- even if you don’t think you have the time. I always find time to get out and release some endorphins. It allows me to focus so much more when I’m working”- Sam, 4th Year


Meditation is HUGE. I value it so much. Even just 5-10 minutes of mindfulness meditation makes me feel so much more relaxed and focused and stress-free.”- Sam, 4th Year

“If I start to feel anxious, I do breathing exercises” – Jane, 5th year

“I have a creative outlet such as playing guitar and singing “- Carol, 4th Year

“I schedule out (whether it be in a calendar or diary) some down time! Whether it be to do yoga, read a book or go for dinner with friends. Scheduling downtime allows me to look forward to something when I’m studying and helps maintain a healthy balance” –Francesca 4th Year

“I deal with stress by meditating because it helps me to be at ease with my thoughts. Guided meditation apps are really helpful for starting out” –Wayne, 4th Year 

“Whenever I get too stressed, I put everything down, go outside and take a walk. Just soaking up all the things that are going on around me really lends perspective and makes me remember that these exams are only a small part of my life. Whether it’s the wind blowing through the trees or watching a dog run around, it really does wonders for my perspective”- Leo, 4th Year

I remind myself that whatever happens, my grades don’t define my worth. You are so much more than an arbitrary number out of 100. Just do your best and that’ll always be enough”- Christian, 3rd Year


“I make sure to schedule time to catch up with friends over a nice brunch or go shopping and not feel guilty about having a break“- Georgia, 4th Year

“I love blocking out time to spend with friends who keep me grounded and are fun to be around. I always leave in a good mood and energised to tackle my studies”- Ash, 4th Year 


“I just remember that everybody has to go through the same shit “- Tommy, 4th year 


By Ashley Chow (Co-founder)

Under the Pressure: A Personal Account of Struggling and Surviving

Have you ever done anything because you thought it is what you should be doing? It came to me right after I met up with a friend – the question that lingered at the back of my mind and had me re-evaluating everything I was doing in my life.

In law school, it is inevitable that we compare ourselves to people around us, regardless of whether we know them personally or not. We put people on pedestals without seeing  behind their mask into their struggles or failures. In fact, some of the most accomplished people I’ve known are only where they are at because they’ve experienced numerous setbacks and learnt how to deal with them.

On the outside, my friend was one of those students who succeeded in anything she did – she was extremely involved in clubs, sociable, decent grades and even a job at a law firm. However, the reality was that she has failed 2 units, struggled with her choice of degree and has faced mental health issues.

For her, coming straight out of a high pressure environment from being in a selective High School and being thrown in the throes of law school meant she did not have time to process what she wanted. Coming from an Asian migrant background, there is additional pressure to follow your parents’ wishes and aim to please them.  This was what led her to a degree in Comm/Law instead of Arts/Law. This set the stage for her to feel as though she was an imposter in a world of high flyers. Her fear of not being good enough caused her to join extra-curriculars and enrol in units that she thought she had to do as opposed to what she wanted to do. By trying to conform, she thought she could create this insulating bubble that would comfort her, but instead she had imprisoned herself, and had thrown away the key.

Ultimately, this inability to cope with her choices while feeling like a sell out sent her spiraling to rock bottom. Yet, that was the wake up call she needed to change her approach towards life. It was even more confronting for her to accept that she had an issue as she came from an Asian/migrant background where depression is seen as a weakness.

Your journey in law school is a personal journey and should not be dictated by anyone else. It is about enriching your own personal human experience and doing things borne out of your passions.

How she got through it

  • The first step is always admitting there is a problem and committing to recovery.  However, just because someone else may be encountering similar issues doesn’t mean you should make an excuse for yourself to neglect your mental health. Don’t compare yourself to others and don’t think of yourself as less of a person for seeking help.
  • Have a good relationship with a psychologist and follow the recommendations made by them. Make the most of services offered at Monash.
  • Know that recovery takes a long time. Understand that being in the right headspace doesn’t mean you never get triggered, but you learn how to be less affected by your triggers.
  • Trial and error. Everyone is different and just because something works for someone doesn’t mean it will work for you. For some, going to the gym make be a mood booster, but for her, it contributed to her anxiety and made her more self-conscious.
  • Give thought to what you like doing and want to do. Personalise your recovery to your needs.
  • Rediscover your hobbies and interests.

What her journey can teach all of us

Her journey towards recovery gave her the chance to reflect on qualities that contributed to her leadership skills. Part of being a leader is to be able to shed light into one’s own vulnerabilities to start conversations and connect with others. Admitting your failures doesn’t mean you are a failure but shows your strength in opening up to others. The legal profession is one that has a high likelihood of depression and anxiety, but for her, having dealt with mental health issues means that she is able to better manage it in future. It took most of her young adulthood to recover and realise that failure is just relative to today. Let’s be honest, in 10 year’s time, no one is going to criticise your abilities as a lawyer simply because you failed a unit in law school.

For her, the experience of wanting to give up but persevering nonetheless, only fuelled her desire to be a lawyer and gave her the resilience that is needed in this profession. For example, despite being rejected from clerkships, she has managed to find a job in law that aligns with her interest of innovation and social impact.  (There are many other pathways and fields in law other than commercial law and you shouldn’t do it simply because everyone else is. You are not a failure for going off the beaten track and being brave enough to seek out your own proverbial north star. It is important to find your strengths and passions. Have the strength to forge your own path and don’t view that as being second best.

We all have our own path and we need to believe that we will reach the end ultimately. Just because the road may be longer and bumpier for some of us, don’t detour and take the road everyone takes. There is no one definite path that is destined for success. Remember that we all have different destinations and every experience, good and bad, matters immensely.

An Anonymous Contribution