What are the Causes of Suicidal Lawyers?
The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) states that lawyers rank 4th in the number of people who commit suicide. With such negative stigma around suicidal deaths, many spouses and family members feel compelled to hide the truth of their loved ones’ deaths. “I intentionally presented it as an accident. The taboo and stigma of suicide was too much for me to handle,” one wife shared, speaking of her husband’s death.
The lawyer’s bar association in each state, reports that the numbers are rising on lawyers who are taking their own lives; lawyers ranked behind only dentists, pharmacists, and physicians. One of the main causes of suicide deaths, according to the American Psychological Association, is depression; and lawyers are highly prone to this disease. According to studies done by the APA, and others in the industry, lawyers are more than 3 ½ times more likely to suffer from the disease of depression than those outside of their field.
When CNN did a report on lawyer suicides, they found that 8 states in the bar association were so concerned about the number of suicides committed by lawyers in their state, that they began to investigate how to address the issue. The bar associations in Florida, California, Montana, Iowa, Mississippi, South Carolina, and North Carolina have added a mental health section to the continuing education program of those in the legal profession. Kentucky, a state that has lost 7,000 lawyers to suicide, has already included a presentation on behaviors that would increase one’s chances to commit suicide, into their annual legal education conferences.
Because the nature of the law profession, is one that continually pits lawyer against lawyer, the profession is a high stress one, even more so than the medical profession. Yvette Hourigan, the head of the Kentucky Lawyer Assistance Program, says that, “Being a physician has stress. However, when the surgeon goes into the surgical suite to perform his surgery, they do not send another physician in to try to kill the patient. You know, they are all on the same team trying to do one job. In the legal profession, adversity is the nature of our game.”
Kentucky Bar Association Executive Director John Meyers says that the state is not certain why they have such a high number of lawyer suicides, but says that most are middle-aged men, who are trial attorneys. It is a heartbreaking situation for everyone, colleagues and of course, family members. Reports show that the majority of these lawyers were performing at high levels up until the moment of death. Many in the industry feel that lawyers need to speak out more and seek help when they feel overwhelmed by the stress of their profession. One of the reasons why so many lawyers suffer in silence is that people in the profession tend to want to handle all of their problems alone, and feel insecure about asking others for help.
Lawyers often feel that it is their job to handle others’ problems, and feel a sense of shame regarding their own personal issues.