Mentioning Mental Illness in a PS

(Personal Statement Examples, Advice, Critique, . . . )
User avatar
Leoandziggy

New
Posts: 4
Joined: Wed Nov 21, 2018 10:22 am

Mentioning Mental Illness in a PS

Postby Leoandziggy » Wed Nov 21, 2018 1:48 pm

Hey!

So I've already applied and I went through quite the adventure writing my PS. I was hospitalized October 2016 and diagnosed with MDD and PTSD. I actually checked myself into the hospital. I never attempted to harm myself. I didn't know whether I should write about it in my PS since there is still a stigma and I will have to answer those questions for Character and Fitness. I asked a bunch of people: law students at UChi and professors. And everyone agreed that not only would it not be a bad idea, but that I should write about it since I'm going into disability advocacy law. Plus I got tons of pointers.

This is more of an advice post. Granted. I haven't been accepted yet. But I want to talk to everyone who is considering mentioning it and whether you should or not. Because I didn't know. However, no other PS draft was as strong as the one I wrote about my mental illness. I could still totally get dinged. Most of this advice was given to me by others when writing my PS. I'm not the expert on this and I'm not puffing my chest up by any means! I keep seeing threads on this and I want to help.

1) Is it relevant? - If it didn't significantly impact your life, don't write about it. Did it affect your worldview? Real talk: If you're using it just as a diversity point, you're not being genuine and it will look like you want a pity admit, even if that isn't your intention.

1a because I'm too lazy to renumber and this is important) Be strategic - This depends on the school you want to get into. But your scores matter. If you have high scores that were still high even though you were struggling, you will probably stand out more. But it isn't over if your numbers suffered. You need at least one area in which you consistently stand out. If you had a bad GPA due to MI and then didn't get the best LSAT score, retake the LSAT (or, in my case, the GRE). Don't write an addendum about mental illness being the reason for all your sub-par numbers. You cannot just say you're strong. You need to objectively show it. If you had one iffy number, you can totally write an addendum if necessary. Just, again, focus on those strengths.

2) Emphasize strength and recovery - This is super important. There has to be a point about growth. Don't just talk about struggling. Law school is stressful. You need to show you can handle it. Law is even more stressful. (Also, seriously ask yourself if you can handle it before getting to this point. Be honest with yourself.) Work the hell out of this.

3) Limit the talk about struggling to 1-2 paragraphs - Only give as much information as is necessary for the admissions committee to understand the situation. Don't whine. You don't need to go into every single symptom you've had or every painful detail. Just give the objective facts and you can make the rest of the PS pretty.

4) Consider what the MI was and whether there is a major stigma - This isn't fair. I know. But the more stigma there is against a particular mental illness, the more you need to consider whether it is worth it to mention. If it is a disorder commonly associated with hallucination or irrational thinking, ask yourself #1 on this list again. And emphasize #2 even more. I'll get personal here. In my case, I was suicidal, and I didn't EVER directly say that, but I did emphasize that I went and asked for help on my own accord and improved immensely. I also heavily implied that even though my diagnosis is PTSD, I can handle difficult situations without much issue. Because in law, you're gonna deal with heavy stuff.

5) Avoid shocking language - Don't directly say you were suicidal or wanted to "end it." Also, don't use the word "triggered." (Even though being triggered is a valid part of having certain disorders, due to the associations with it, avoid ever using it in a PS).

6) Stay upbeat! - You will be talking about a heavy subject. Show that you aren't a difficult person to be around. This doesn't mean start using overly dark humor or write a self-depreciating comedy skit. Don't. But a personal statement is basically telling them why they should admit you. If you seem like someone who is just going to be difficult to make friends with or hard to say anything around, you're not going to get admitted. Be optimistic and upbeat! Actually, doing that is hard when talking about a tough subject, and it will look really good if you can pull it off. Optimism is another underline and testament to your strength.

Optional - Weave something else in. Talk about something else to balance out the narrative about MI. Something else you're interested in. I did fiction writing. You're limited on space, so I'm making this optional. If you can make it work, make it work. But don't do this if it is going to affect how you organize everything. You don't want to have 3 paragraphs on MI and then a random paragraph on underwater basket weaving. Make everything work together. If you can pull this off, it also alleviates some of the requirement of #6.

I hope this helps <3 Take care of yourself and breathe. It will all work out.

Npret

Gold
Posts: 1984
Joined: Mon Jan 23, 2017 11:42 am

Re: Mentioning Mental Illness in a PS

Postby Npret » Wed Nov 21, 2018 3:56 pm

I’m curious did you get advice from any admissions counselors on this statement?
In your limited case, if you want to be an advocate for mentally ill people, and if you have high numbers, I guess this makes sense.
It’s your application and your decision, but outside of explaining why you want to be involved in disability law, I’m not sure it’s a smart move.
I’m pretty strongly against people using their own mental illness in their PS, even if it seems like the strongest bit of writing.

User avatar
Leoandziggy

New
Posts: 4
Joined: Wed Nov 21, 2018 10:22 am

Re: Mentioning Mental Illness in a PS

Postby Leoandziggy » Wed Nov 21, 2018 4:03 pm

I did. I pretty much turned over every rock!

Npret

Gold
Posts: 1984
Joined: Mon Jan 23, 2017 11:42 am

Re: Mentioning Mental Illness in a PS

Postby Npret » Wed Nov 21, 2018 4:07 pm

I should add that I think you wrote excellent advice not just for mental illness but anyone using a difficult time in their life as a PS. The advice to keep the discussion of the struggle short and minimal is very important.
Good luck to you and I hope you get accepted if that’s what you want.

User avatar
Leoandziggy

New
Posts: 4
Joined: Wed Nov 21, 2018 10:22 am

Re: Mentioning Mental Illness in a PS

Postby Leoandziggy » Wed Nov 21, 2018 4:13 pm

Thank you so much! :D

No. It's an iffy subject, and I didn't use it until I was sure it was worth it to take the risk. I made sure I was comfortable with taking the risk and being rejected anyways. Though I really hope I don't because if I have to write another PS, I'm going to flip a table. It was a dramatic time. I'll do it, but I won't enjoy it. :lol:

Scutrules

New
Posts: 27
Joined: Tue Jun 26, 2012 7:06 pm

Re: Mentioning Mental Illness in a PS

Postby Scutrules » Sat Jan 19, 2019 11:51 am

Late reply but figured I'd add in case anyone else is perusing these threads on Saturday nights while waiting for results to come in :)

I wrote about mental illness in my statement, specifically of the aftereffects of being raped, how it impacted my life, and how I now want to be a legal advocate for those who are facing similar hardships. It's my "why law" answer and it's part of who I am. I didn't write it as a sob story or as a pity party, I just stated facts and then moved on. While it was a difficult essay to write and probably a difficult one to read, I am proud of what I wrote and how I turned my life around. So yeah, I mentioned mental illness in my statement and I have yet to be rejected by a school yet so I can't be doing too horribly.



Return to “Law School Personal Statements?

Who is online

The online users are hidden on this forum.