THE LAW ON DEPRESSION. By Jojo Konki Sapara Bentsi – Enchill

Section 2(1) of the Law Student’s Depression Act, 1959 (Act 001) provides that a person enrolled in a course of study, either full-time or part-time, leading to the award of a Bachelor of Laws (L.L.B) degree, is highly probable to be depressed or experiencing severe bouts of depression. Sub-section (2) goes further to state that depression includes feelings of anxiety, discouragement and despair, a state of hopelessness, and any other such state that has similar effect.

Ha-ha. Just kidding.

Pursuing a career in law is a rewarding but an equally very daunting task. The noble profession demands a certain skill-set and particular essential characteristics. Perseverance, hard work and discipline are but a few. The climb up the legal ladder to emerge as a seasoned lawyer has never been easy, and the dark, frightening chaos surrounding the nature of legal education in Ghana has not made it any better. The very thought alone of one spending four good years to pursue an LLB degree and finally not making it into the Ghana School of Law to pursue the Professional Law Course is heartbreaking.

It is important to realize that as a law student, your emotional and mental health is severely at stake. We are all not built the same, and some more than others, are better suited to cope with the desolation that may come along in the course of legal studies. Maybe back in high school, you were the best student in your class, scoring perfect grades and having enough time to cater for yourself and take up extra-curricular activities. But fast-forward today; you open up your MIS and interrogate yourself, “Is this really me?”, “do I really have what it takes to be a lawyer?”, “perhaps some other course would have been best for me?” Self-doubt creeps in like a thief in the dead of the night, and owing to the overly competitive nature of the environment law students find themselves in, we are inclined to believe that everyone deserves to be a lawyer. Everyone, except you. The dread hits harder as examinations season looms over the horizon, approaching like an enraged lion after its prey. The magnitude of cases and textbooks to peruse before you march off to seal your fate in the dreaded examination room, stands as tall as a mountain, casting its menacing shadow over you as you cower in the darkness, frantically searching for a way to overcome this huge burden in such little time. The panic and despair sets in, and you begin to wonder why everyone seems to be on top of their game, living a perfectly balanced life, whereas it seems nearly impossible for you to do same.

At this point, you may feel like wanting to quit. You may feel like you have no control over your life and academics, and everything is just falling apart. You are now caught squarely within the confines of Section 2 of Act 001. Perhaps, it would just be better to give up and let everything crumble and waste away, right? But wait! What if there was a way out? Others have done it and made it, so what prevents you from doing bigger and better?

First step is to run your own race. Stop comparing yourself with others. It is easy to feel like an imposter in law school, but what you do not know about the people you compare yourself to daily is that their flawless public façade masks private despair. Depression or anxiety may not always manifest itself through gloomy worn out expressions. Some people walking around all bubbly and excited on the outside, are really empty worn out vessels, battling their own inner demons. Once you come to realize this untold truth, you find it much easier to come to terms with yourself. It has been said that comparison is the thief of joy. Rather than using other people as a yardstick to measure individual success, focus on making improvements to your own life.

Next, you may want to set a solid strategy to follow whole-heartedly. Examine yourself thoroughly. Are you missing lectures and isolating yourself from your books? Are you sleeping poorly or not enough? Do you lack passion? You need to find something that keeps you going, something to look forward to, the light at the end of the tunnel. Creating an appropriate strategy to follow diligently would help you maintain a balanced academic life and reduce the pressures and burdens on you. Ask or answer questions in class, join a group-study, speak to your professors. All these go a long way to break you free from the chains of anxiety that keep your potential in bondage.

If you ever feel the pressure and anxiety rising too much, do not isolate yourself. Find someone to talk to, a role model, a friend or simply someone you look up to. Keep in mind that a problem shared is a problem half solved. People have been through what you may be going through currently, and speaking to them and learning from their experience can make you feel a whole lot better and comfortable.

In conclusion, your decision to go to law school was a huge investment, which must be protected at all cost. The journey may not be easy but it certainly would be worth it. As Abi Talib once posited, “Do not let your difficulties fill you with anxiety; after all, it is only in the darkest nights that stars shine more brightly”. Anytime you feel like you do not belong or it is just not worth it anymore, reflect on the words of Eckhart Tolle; “You have a treasure within you that is infinitely greater than anything the world can offer.”

(P.S: Act 001 in this context is purely fictional.)