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High Risk for Depression?

May 18, 2008

A jury awarded the family of a successful Texas trial lawyer, who committed suicide with a razor given to him by a nurse in a hospital where he was a patient, $9 million according to Attorney, Interrupted: Seeking Meaning, Recovery for a Legal Life Lost by Jenny B. Davis of Texas Lawyer.    

The article reported, “leading up to this hospitalization, he’d go through periods of insomnia where he was awake for days, and at work he had difficulty concentrating. He wasn’t picking up on what people were saying, he couldn’t focus on his cases and he had a sensation of his heart racing and thought maybe he was having some sort of a heart event. He told the ER doctor and the internist that he felt like he was under tremendous pressure in his legal practice…He was an alpha male, an A-type personality and totally driven—independent in every way and providing for everyone very well—who had an acute psychiatric condition, and he needed care.”

Lawyers are at a significantly higher risk for developing depression than other professionals, according to a report by the State Bar of Texas’ Special Task Force on Lawyer Mental Health Issues.  A report by the task force called “Lawyer Mental Health: Acknowledging the Challenges, Raising Awareness and Providing Solutions” found: 

  • Those who suffer from perfectionism are at higher risk for suicide. 
  • Lawyers are notoriously reluctant to seek help for personal issues. 
  • 11 percent of the lawyers surveyed in a North Carolina study thought of taking their own life at least once a month.  
  • Male lawyers in the United States are two times more likely to commit suicide than men in the general population, according to a 1992 study by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.   
  • Most mental health concerns such as depression and anxiety are highly treatable.

I’ve heard a lot of jokes about the guy from Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers of Pennsylvania, who speaks to all of the 1L classes at area law schools, but seriously, if you or someone you know need help, call them: 1-888-999-1941.

LCL is an assistance program which offers confidential help to lawyers, judges, and their family members.  LCL was incorporated in 1988 by recovering lawyers and judges to assist their colleagues struggling with substance abuse and addiction.  LCL is a comprehensive assistance program designed to meet the unique needs of lawyers, judges and their family members who are struggling not only with alcohol and drug related problems but also with stress, anxiety, depression, gambling and other emotional and mental health issues.  Support is provided by a network of Volunteer lawyers and judges from around the Commonwealth, other states, Canada, and Great Britain.  These Volunteers are the foundation of LCL. Many of the Volunteers have been assisting colleagues for over 30 years.

LCL has NO connection or communication with the Disciplinary Board, Judicial Conduct Board, Board of Law Examiners, or the Pennsylvania Bar Association regarding the identity of those they help.

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