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Georgia bar readies suicide prevention initiative as PD takes his life

Posted Feb 28, 2013 6:30 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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A newly appointed panel of the State Bar of Georgia will consider new ways to provide suicide prevention resources for lawyers and their families.

State Bar of Georgia President Robin Frazer Clark said she appointed the panel in the wake of three lawyer suicides in Georgia in the last nine months, according to the Daily Report. Clark says she was discussing her "How to Save a Life" initiative with the bar’s executive director on the same day that federal assistant public defender Thomas "Jake" Waldrop took his life in the bar’s parking garage. The PD’s office is across the street.

The panel will be led by J. Randolph Evans of McKenna Long & Aldridge. He told the Daily Report his interest in suicide prevention began with the suicide of a client, a lawyer who was consumed with a malpractice claim. “He had a 30- or 40-year practice, and he felt like it was about to collapse around him,” Evans said.

Evans believes education is key to preventing suicides. “There are patterns of communication that are pretty clear signs that something is wrong,” he said.

A 2009 white paper (PDF) by the State Bar of South Carolina outlined warning signs of suicide. They can include: unrelenting low mood, pessimism, hopelessness, desperation, anxiety, inner tension, withdrawal, sleep problems, increased alcohol or drug use, recent impulsiveness, unexpected anger, threatening suicide, giving away prized possessions, and suddenly obtaining a gun or other means to commit suicide.

The Georgia bar has professional counselors available through a 24-hour hotline at 1-800-327-9631.

The ABA Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs develops educational materials for lawyers about substance abuse, stress, depression and other mental health issues, and it works closely with lawyer assistance programs run by state and local bar associations. A directory of those programs, along with other training and educational materials, publications, products and related resources, is avail­able on the commission’s website.

Related coverage:

ABA Journal: “Speaking Up: Helping Law Students Break Through the Silence of Depression”

ABAJournal.com: “How Lawyers Can Help Depressed Colleagues”

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