I was writing a different blog post this morning, one I will get back to, when I received an email from my son’s high school principal. One of his classmates, a senior and a boy my son knew, had committed suicide.
Since receiving that email, I have been out of sorts. There’s the obvious tragedy of a young man taking his own life, of his family and friends left behind. But it also triggered in me deeper emotions, for he died today, Valentine’s Day, a day marketed to be about love not death. Today is also the day, twenty years ago, that my father died from lung cancer. I am definitely out of sorts.
To try to gain some perspective, I stood for about fifteen minutes on the second floor of Eckstein Hall, looking out over the Zilber Forum, when some classes were letting out and others were getting ready to begin. I needed to be among the living and not alone in my office among ghosts.
While I was standing there watching students flow up and down the main staircase, in and out of classrooms, I was thinking about the many students I’ve talked to this spring, mostly 1Ls, who have said that this second semester is much harder than first semester; that some are struggling with what feels like an increased workload; and perhaps most disturbing, that students seem to have gotten more competitive, less cooperative. It reminded me of something I’ve posted before: law school is stressful and law students seem to suffer from stress and depression at higher rates than the general public. Some of the things that stress law students can’t be changed – the tight job market, the need for loans to complete law school, even the amount of reading assigned in any given class. But other things can be changed, or at least one’s approach to those things can be changed.
Marquette law students, perhaps more so than law students at other schools, are more likely to be professional colleagues when law school finishes. Most Marquette law graduates work in Wisconsin. Most will practice law, most likely in some private practice setting. Some will become judges here. Or legislators. But all are entering a small community of lawyers who will want to – even need to – work together (even when working on opposite sides of a case) so the system continues to function and function with a higher level of respect than perhaps we currently give it.
Students, if you find yourself feeling stressed, depressed, irritable for too long, snappy with friends and family for no apparent reason, eating or drinking or sleeping too much, eating too little, withdrawing from life, please, please be sure to talk to someone in Student Services, at the Counseling Center, or in Campus Ministry. Remember: this, too, shall pass.