More than ever, we need to be there for our colleague’s friends and loved ones. There is a huge difference between solitude by choice and being forced into it. The latter can result in intense feelings of loneliness that can exacerbate underlying mental health issues in a profession already beset with mental health issues higher than the national norms. Being an active participant in a compassionate community is more important than it ever has been in most of our lifetimes. I am particularly concerned about those who may consider suicide. I’ve already received several suicide-related social media messages. I’ve struggled with my own feelings of despair and hopelessness. I get it.
It seems that at least once a month I read about a lawyer dying by suicide. Tragic but unfortunately, not-surprising in a profession that is 3rdth ranked in terms of suicide (out of professions adjusted by age). I may see it on Facebook, Twitter or a news article. It is rare that suicide is specifically mentioned, but there may a request to in lieu of flowers for a donation to a mental health organization or and there will be a commentary about the person’s struggle with depression, substances or both.
We just can’t bring ourselves to say the word. We make the donation. Grieve for our friends or colleagues. Maybe we tweet out or Facebook posts a suicide crisis line. We talk about reaching out. Then we lose another. And another.
Of course, whether its depression, addiction or any other mental health/environmental variable that plays into these issues, the hard reality is that we can love, monitor and even intervene if everything comes together at the right moment as it, fortunately, did when my friend and brothers saved my life. We, however, can’t be there every moment and those tragic and life-changing/ending thoughts can come quickly, without warning.
What to do? Not only about our profession but against the backdrop of overall suicide rates that have risen twenty-eight percent over the last twenty years. According to the study, middle-aged adults are at the highest risk.
Unfortunately, I don’t have a magic cure for what ails the human condition and I don’t see that solution, if there is one, happening in my lifetime. I, however, do believe that we, as a profession and society can do little thing that can have a huge impact whether it’s a struggle with depression, anxiety, addiction or the next crisis we will face, supporting our baby-boomer legal colleagues for whom aging has taken a toll on mental acuity.
Action must begin at the most basic human level. We can look within ourselves and pledge to pay attention and open ourselves up to being part of a compassionate community. To not mind our own business. If you need to talk, email me and we will set up a Zoom chat. I am here for you.
Brian Cuban (@bcuban) is The Addicted Lawyer. Brian is the author of the Amazon best-selling book, The Addicted Lawyer: Tales Of The Bar, Booze, Blow & Redemption. A graduate of the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, he somehow made it through as an alcoholic then added cocaine to his résumé as a practicing attorney. He went into recovery on April 8, 2007. He left the practice of law and now writes and speaks on recovery topics, not only for the legal profession but on recovery in general. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.