The Black Law Students Association of WMU-Cooley’s Tampa Bay campus hosted a mental health awareness panel discussion on Thursday, Oct. 17, geared toward law students and attorneys.
Panelists for the “Healthy Living and the Law – Strategies for Students and Attorneys” discussion, included Mandi Clay, mental health expert and founder and managing attorney of Three Thirteen Law PLLC; and Katrina Oliver, a healthy work/life balance expert who is a certified adoption-competent mental health professional, a certified child protection licensing supervisor through The Florida Certification Board, and a former certified county mediator through the Florida Supreme Court. In addition, WMU-Cooley student Stephanie Bell spoke about substance abuse; and Bryan and Elizabeth Devolder, recent WMU-Cooley graduates who are now practicing attorneys, spoke about surviving and thriving while in law school.
Pictured (left-right) Attorney Elizabeth Devolder, Devolder Law Firm; Katrina Oliver, healthy work/life balance expert; Attorney Bryan Devolder, Devolder Law Firm; Mandy Clay, mental health expert and managing attorney of Three Thirteen Law PLLC; WMU-Cooley students Jenell Gillespie; Tempestt Jenkins; Ke'Dazia Barber; Bernard Allen; and Marcus Gibson.
Tempestt Jenkins, president of the Tampa Bay BLSA, shared with the group that 92 percent of law students experience stress, while 43 percent experience a great deal of stress. She also noted that 33 percent and 32 percent of law students believe high stress and balancing family and work is a significant challenge within the profession, respectively.
“I have some breaking news for you: Law school is stressful and the practice of law is stressful,” Jenkins told the audience.
During their presentations, Clay and Oliver each explained to the students the importance of taking care of themselves while in law school.
“Take care of yourself or you will not be able to take care of anyone else,” Oliver told the students.
“Mental illness occurs when the brain is sick,” said Clay. “You get help when other parts of your body are ill. You need to get help when your brain is ill as well.”
The Devolders, both who attended WMU-Cooley’s Tampa Bay campus, have been married for 10 years have two children. They advised to ask for help from family members or friends when feeling overwhelmed.
“Make a schedule so you can have time for your studies and your family,” they said during their presentation.