New website addresses Ontario law students’ mental health needs

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Ontario’s 4,100 law students have an important new resource for wellness and mental health funded by the Ontario government and developed by York University’s Osgoode Hall Law School in collaboration with the province’s six other law schools.

JustBalance is an engaging new website that provides support for Ontario law students dealing with stress, anxiety, and other wellness and mental health concerns.

The JustBalance website – which includes Osgoode Hall Law School and law Faculties at the University of Toronto, University of Ottawa (Common Law Section), University of Windsor, Queen’s University, Western University and Lakehead University – offers a quick and easy way for students to hone in on their concerns and find helpful on-campus and external resources.

The website was funded by the Ontario Ministry of Training, Colleges & Universities, which announced last October a commitment of $92,606 over two years.

Prior to the development of the website, students from the seven law schools were surveyed about what they’d like to see on it. Concerns they wanted addressed revolved around issues such as navigating law school culture, not feeling cut out for law, feeling stressed and worrying about the future, their relationships and their personal lives.

“The JustBalance website brings law schools and law students in Ontario together for the first time to address law students’ mental health needs,” said Melanie Banka Goela, Osgoode’s student success and wellness counsellor, who spearheaded what is referred to as the Ontario Law Student Mental Health Initiative.

“Our primary aim is to improve the mental health outcomes of Ontario’s 4,100 law students and future lawyers,” said Banka Goela, a professional counsellor and lawyer who graduated from Osgoode in 2003. Her role at Osgoode is to help students develop and fulfill their personal and academic potential by providing confidential short-term individual counselling, crisis counselling, academic skills counselling for upper-year students, wellness groups and workshops, and referrals.

Osgoode Hall Law School Dean Lorne Sossin described the JustBalance website as “a really important new resource” for student wellness and mental health that will provide “a forum for exploring the systemic and personal issues facing today’s law students in a way that is both relevant and meaningful.”