Victory for Mental Health Sep 26 2019
September 26 @ 5:30 pm - 8:00 pm$50
Celebrating Success in Mental Health Advocacy
Join us to celebrate our 2019 Virginia Mental Health Advocate Champion, plus two new peer support programs!
Food, networking, Recovery Art!
About this Event
5:30 pm Refreshments, Recovery Art – Silent Auction, Mental Health Information Displays
6:30 pm Dinner Program
- Advocate Champion of the Year Award to Gray O’Dwyer, who led law student efforts to de-stigmatize mental health on the state application to practice law
- Doris Causey, Central Virginia Legal Aid Society and Past President of the Virginia State Bar to present the Award
- The Honorable Brian Moran, Virginia Secretary of Public Safety, on mental health and criminal justice
PLUS: Announcing two new MHAV peer support services for trauma recovery
Mental Health Advocate Award
At our Victory for Mental Health event on Sept. 26th we will recognize several positive changes for mental health in Virginia. One of the good news stories: The law students who pushed to remove the mental health question from the application to practice law in Virginia.
An American Bar Association survey revealed that half of law students needing mental health counseling did not seek help because of concern over how it would affect their bar admission and career.
Removing institutional barriers like the bar exam question are vital to fostering a climate that encourages mental wellness.
Although the award is for efforts in the world of law, this change has much broader implications. In order to remove the stigma too often associated with mental illness, anyone preparing to enter the work force, or already employed, should feel that getting help is a strength, not something to avoid for fear of discrimination or professional sanctions. Regardless of where we work, or attend school, or connect with others, we can all help create a climate where mental health is valued as part of everyone’s overall health.
Gray O’Dwyer is an Assistant Attorney General working in environmental law and a 2018 graduate of the T.C. Williams School of Law at University of Richmond. She also holds a master’s from UVA and a bachelor’s from the University of South Carolina. Gray is a Richmond native, currently serving on the Advisory Council for the Richmond 300 planning initiative and active in community outreach. Her work to improve access to mental health care among law students stemmed from personal experience and a desire to bring healthy change to the legal profession.
As a third year law student at the University of Richmond Law School, Gray O’Dwyer led a student effort to remove the mental health question from the state bar application. Working with students at law schools throughout Virginia, she organized a letter writing campaign to the Virginia Board of Bar Examiners and worked with others to advocate removing this barrier to treatment.
The mental health question was part of the “character and fitness” part of the application to work as a lawyer in Virginia. It examined applicant’s mental health histories. “It was a barrier to treatment,” O’Dwyer told the Richmond Times Dispatch. “It was reinforcing the stigma that if you seek treatment for any sort of mental health concern, it will come back to haunt you.”
Combined with efforts from lawyers, judges, and others, the campaign prevailed and the change took effect Jan.1st this year. The question was changed to ask about conduct or behavior that could interfere with one’s ability to practice law. It now addresses public safety concerns while not discouraging students from seeking treatment.
At least 14 other states have made similar changes to their bar applications. These changes are part of a growing movement in Virginia and nationally to encourage mental wellness, not only for law students and lawyers, but for all of us.
Special Opportunity to support Recovery Art – Silent Auction
* Sponsorship and Table Host Opportunities Available! Premier, Gold, and Silver Sponsors receive multiple tickets to the event, plus table display space, name/logo on event materials, website, etc. Contact Jenny.Sappington@mhav.org
Business attire suggested