As mental health challenges among law students continue to increase, law schools are exploring new ways to identify struggling students and provide help. At least five U.S. law schools have adopted a service called Early Alert that was first developed for medical schools. The service sends a weekly text message to students, asking them to rate their well-being on a specific topic, such as academics, personal relationships, sleep quality, and financial stability. Based on their responses, the service triggers a list of available resources, outreach by a staff member, or an automatic call from a crisis counselor, or all three.
A survey of law students conducted in 2021 at 39 schools found that nearly 69% of students needed help for emotional or mental health problems in the past year, up from 42% in 2014. Early Alert is now used by 35 institutions, including Pepperdine University Caruso School of Law, Roger Williams University, Wayne State University, the University of Maryland, and the University of Detroit Mercy. Law schools pay about $5,000 annually for the opt-in service.
The service has had a substantive impact on students’ lives, according to Chalak Richards, the Dean of Students, Diversity and Belonging at Pepperdine University Caruso School of Law. The service provides early intervention for struggling students, and the schools can also use the aggregate data collected from the service to guide their programming. Early Alert is not a solution to the mental health crisis among law students, but it is one of the many tools that can be helpful, according to Lorraine Lalli, the Associate Dean of Student Life and Operations at Roger Williams University.
The use of Early Alert in law schools is a step towards addressing the challenges faced by law students and promoting the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 3 – Good Health and Well-being. The SDG 3 aims to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages. By monitoring the mental health of law students and providing early intervention, law schools are promoting good health and well-being and contributing to the vision of a global society that prioritizes the mental health of its members.
The use of Early Alert in law schools is a positive step towards ensuring that students receive the necessary support to maintain good health and well-being.