At least three Washington attorneys committed suicide in 2016. I have received several calls from people shocked that this happened and wondering what more can be done
to prevent attorney suicide. Unless you are in the immediate
circle of a suicidal individual, the news about a person’s suicide
is usually unexpected. Colleagues and friends often struggle with
survivor’s guilt. They may wonder if there was something they
did to make the suicide happen, or something they could have done
to prevent it. In the short term, this can lead to anxiety and self-doubt.
In the long term, this can actually play a positive role in leading a
person to be more vigilant to take care of those they see struggling.
Practicing law places a great deal of responsibility on the practitioner’s shoulders. In addition, legal culture can deter a lawyer or
legal professional from asking for help for fear that such a request
would be a sign of weakness. Combined with attorneys suffering
from depression and alcoholism at rates roughly twice that of the
general population, you have a perfect storm for suicidal thinking.
Suicidal ideation occurs at a high rate in the general population,
and it needs to be taken seriously every time. What increases an
individual’s risk of suicide includes the development of a means
of completing the suicide, such as a method or a weapon; a suicide
plan, including setting the time and place, or writing a suicide
letter; and forming the intent to follow through with the suicide.
Connecting with someone over the topic of suicide can seem
quite fraught. There is often a fear that this had best be handled by
a mental health professional, and that the lay person could “screw it
up.” A person will avoid stepping into this issue because it may seem
awkward or alarmist, or sometimes a person will think that by bringing
Suicide in Washington’s
NWLawyer | MAR 2017 12
by Dan Crystal
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