Lawyer Suicides Inspire Bar Action

Depression, stress, burnout, a profession filled with workaholics. Does the work drive lawyers to kill themselves? 
Anecdotally, there are many tragic examples from across the country, and CNN recently aired a feature story with statistics suggesting lawyers are more likely to kill themselves than only those who work in three other professions: dentists, pharmacists and physicians.
Although there is no single thread that unites the instances of suicides among lawyers, the American Psychological Association says depression generally is the most likely trigger. Lawyers are 3.6 times more likely to suffer from depression than non-lawyers, and suicide is the third-leading cause of death among practicing attorneys.
Of course, as in many professions, the recession and layoffs can lead to depression and worse. The National Law Journal reported in 2009 that several prestigious firms had lost attorneys to suicide after they were fired.
Fortunately, a number of bar associations have launched efforts to curb this deadly spiral. California, Florida, Iowa, Mississippi, Montana, North Carolina and South Carolina have added a mental health component to mandatory continuing legal education courses. Kentucky, where 15 lawyers have committed suicide since 2010, starts its annual CLE conference with a presentation on behaviors that raise the risk for suicide. And in Oklahoma, the bar association created its own suicide-prevention hotline after multiple lawyers claimed their own lives several years ago. 
Here in Texas, the Texas Lawyers Assistance Program provides a wealth of downloadable information on suicide prevention, in addition to staffing a 24-hour hotline for lawyers in crisis or those who are trying to help other lawyers in crisis. 
While many lawyers are familiar with the relatively high rates of suicide and depression in the profession, the public too often is not. After all, stories about lawyers killing themselves don’t make for sensational copy. 

Posted: 2/12/2014 1:33:14 PM by Editor | with 1 comments

Bob Dawson
Jonathan, Thank you for this reminder of a very important problem. No job (including being a lawyer) is worth killing yourself over, but when the depression, anxiety, fear, or shame is bad enough, suicide can seem like the best option. TLAP provides wonderful services and there are other supports available, as well. We should all work to see that lawyer suicides become a thing of the past.
2/13/2014 11:58:56 AM

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Thanks for stopping by On the Merits, the first blog from the Texas Center for Legal Ethics. On the Merits will take a close look at significant legal stories with an eye toward addressing the legal myths and misconceptions that turn up in news stories, movies, TV programs, websites, anonymous emails and other forms of mass communications. Our goal at On the Merits is to provide readers with a thoughtful examination of what the media and others are saying about the legal profession and to apply the frequently-absent context of how the legal system actually works.

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