Law school opens a wellness room to support students

To help students destress, the University of Minnesota’s Law School recently opened a wellness room.

Law students Jessica Szuminski and Makenzie Krause play a game of chess on Friday, Oct. 12, in Mondale Hall. The therapy room that they are in offers law students the chance to unwind without the distractions of technology or homework. 

Jack Rodgers

Law students Jessica Szuminski and Makenzie Krause play a game of chess on Friday, Oct. 12, in Mondale Hall. The therapy room that they are in offers law students the chance to unwind without the distractions of technology or homework. 

Michelle Griffith

The family of a University of Minnesota graduate who struggled with addiction has helped fund a wellness room in the Law School.

Brennan Gaeth, a law school student who graduated in 2017, struggled with addiction before dying after a relapse last fall. His family decided to help fund the room while he was struggling to provide a healthy way for students to deal with stress, as Gaeth loved yoga and meditation.

“What we know from recent studies of law students and lawyers is if we don’t attend to mental health issues … things could go very south,” said Erin Keyes, assistant dean of students for the Law School.

The space has materials to give students a chance to de-stress, such as couches, yoga mats, coloring materials, water painting, blankets and a therapy lamp that mimics sunlight.

The original idea for the wellness space came last year, when the Professional Student Government’s Law Council created a mental health committee. The family helped fund the room to help students deal with stress.

A goal of the room is to give students a space to unwind and focus on themselves, rather than their coursework. One sign in the room reads, “No homework allowed.”

The Law School’s extensive and challenging coursework inevitably leads to stress, Keyes said. The school wants to equip its students with tools to take care of themselves.

First-year law students Nari Kretschmer and Abrianna Dolfi said Law School classes are challenging. Many professors call on students randomly, so being prepared is helpful, they said.

Both students use yoga, exercising and Netflix binging to relieve stress, Kretschmer and Dolfi said.

Keyes said it’s important students stay healthy. “Our future clients need our students to be healthy and to be able to take care of themselves,” she said.

At the room’s official opening last month, over 50 people came to support the family and celebrate the completion of the room.

The wellness space is not a new idea on campus, as the Humphrey School of Public Affairs has had one for about five years.

It has similar materials and resources for wellness, but the room is open to anyone at the University, said Gayle Peters, the Humphrey School’s director of human resources.

“The idea initially was there was not a space in the school where individuals could find their individualized peace and quiet,” Peters said. She added that many people in the school do not have spaces to go unwind.

One student utilized the Humphrey School’s room a few years ago after she was in a car accident. The room gave her space to rehabilitate and do stretches, Peters said.

Peters said she hopes the addition of the Law School’s wellness room will propel a movement across campus for other schools to adopt a similar space for students.

“Until people are talking about [the room] and using it, it’s kind of this best-kept secret,” Peters said.

Correction: A previous version of this story gave the incorrect cause of death for Brennan Gaeth.