You're Not Alone: No matter how dire the situation might seem, help is available
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, suicide was the 12th leading cause of death in the United States in 2020, claiming the lives of more than 45,900 people.
A study published in the February issue of the journal Healthcare, “Stressed, Lonely and Overcommitted: Predictors of Lawyer Suicide Risk,” found that lawyers are at least twice as likely as the general adult population to consider suicide.
The study is based on a sample of 1,962 attorneys from the California Lawyers Association and the Bar Association of the District of Columbia. It found that men who felt socially isolated, had a history of mental health problems and were overly committed at work have the highest risk of suicide.
Patrick Krill, an attorney who is also a licensed and board-certified alcohol and drug counselor and the founder of Krill Strategies, was one of the study authors.
“The legal profession has known that lawyers are disproportionately predisposed to suicidal thoughts, but we’ve been largely relying on assumptions and anecdotes to understand why. With this research, however, we now have the beginnings of a data-driven formula for successfully mitigating risk and ultimately saving lives,” Krill said in a news release for the study.
If you or someone you know is in crisis, call or text the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline, or call 911 in life-threatening situations. In addition, The ABA Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs, or CoLAP, hosts a state-by-state directory of places for legal professionals to get help. It can be accessed at abajournal.com/help.
Warning signs of suicide, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, include:
- Talking about wanting to die or wanting to kill themselves.
- Talking about feeling empty or hopeless or having no reason to live.
- Talking about feeling trapped or feeling that there are no solutions.
- Feeling unbearable emotional or physical pain.
- Talking about being a burden to others.
- Withdrawing from family and friends.
- Giving away important possessions.
- Saying goodbye to friends and family.
- Putting affairs in order, such as making a will.
- Taking great risks that could lead to death, such as driving extremely fast.
- Talking or thinking about death often.
If you know someone exhibiting these signs, the institute recommends these five steps:
- Ask them if they’re thinking about killing themselves. (Studies show this does not increase the chance of suicides.)
- Reduce their access to lethal items, including guns and pills.
- Listen to what the person is thinking and feeling (but don’t agree to be sworn to secrecy, experts say).
- Connect them with the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline or another source of help, like their local lawyer assistance program.
- Stay in touch with the person after they’ve received care to follow up with them.
CoLAP’s mission is devoted to the advancement of well-being in the legal profession and to assure that every judge, lawyer and law student has access to support and assistance when confronting alcoholism, substance use disorders or mental health issues.