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Graduate student leaders from 13 law schools have signed a pledge to improve the mental health of their campuses and eliminate the stigma behind seeking help. 

Penn Law Council of Student Representatives President and Penn Law student Chris O’Brien was one of the students to sign the pledge. Other schools represented include the University of Chicago Law School, Columbia Law School, Cornell Law School and Harvard Law School.

“There are many factors that went into this initial conversation, stemming from incidents that all our schools have had in the past of mental health issues — student suicides at both undergraduate schools and the law schools themselves,” said O’Brien in an interview with the law journal, The Legal Intelligencer. 

Five of the 14 students who have died from suicide at Penn since February 2013 have been graduate students. 

Various graduate student leaders have indicated that a majority of mental health resources at Penn seem designed to support undergraduate students rather than graduate students. Some have also said that mental health is particularly poor among graduate students because of how decentralized the University's graduate schools are. 

The pledge signed by O'Brien wrote that law schools in general are notorious for being “a grueling and overwhelming ordeal.” It also suggested that the competitive social culture within law schools tend to "encourage self-medication in the form of alcohol consumption and substance abuse, rather than healthy long-term treatment."

“In law school, we drink a lot, because we enjoy each others’ company,” O’Brien said in the interivew. “And often we continue to drink in order to combat some of these issues, which is extremely unhealthy.”

As part of the pledge, the graduate student leaders committed to broadening mental health care and joining efforts with other campus organizations. 

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