The Truth About Suicide

Topics: Depression, Suicide, Emotional Health

Some research has found that suicide is more common among lawyers than in the general population. According to research from the Canadian Bar Association, suicide was the third leading cause of death among attorneys—after cancer and cardiac arrest. Out of 100,000 lawyers, there were 69 deaths compared to 10 to 14 deaths in the general population.

What makes lawyers extra vulnerable to suicide? The media often insinuates that a single stressful event is to blame. You might’ve read about attorneys dying by suicide after a lay-off or a lost case, or law students after failing classes or not passing the Bar.

But what often lurks beneath these suicide attempts is clinical depression or other mental health conditions. Individuals with depression not only experience a deep sadness but they also feel hopeless and isolated. They lose interest in activities they previously enjoyed. They feel lethargic and drained. Some days, they don’t want to get out of bed at all. Untreated depression can lead to a range of negative consequences such as substance abuse and an inability to work.

Some research has suggested that more lawyers struggle with depression than individuals in any other profession. While depression is caused by a complex combination of factors, including genetics, biology and environment, stress may be to blame for triggering depression. Stress is at an all-time high for both lawyers and law students. You have to contend with intense competition, long hours, short deadlines and challenging material.

Fortunately, depression and other emotional health issues are highly treatable. Yet, many lawyers and students struggle in silence. They hesitate to seek help because of the stigma around mental health conditions and how it might affect their career.

But getting help is key to succeeding in law school and leading a healthy life. Today, you’ll find many excellent resources available to law students, including confidential hotlines— for example, the New York City Bar Association has a hotline at (212) 302-5787.

Warning Signs of Suicide

• Dramatic mood changes
• Striking changes in behavior
• Excessive drinking or drug abuse
• Anxiety or agitation
• Isolating and withdrawing from others
• Hopelessness
• Uncontrollable anger
• Talking about death or dying
• Engaging in risky activities

If you or a friend are having a hard time, use our confidential screening tool to dig deeper into your state of mind and find out if a mental health condition like depression could be impacting your thoughts, feelings or behaviors.