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Four Ky. lawyers have committed suicide in last three weeks, drawing attention to stress in legal community

Four Kentucky lawyers have committed suicide in the last three weeks, according to the Kentucky Bar Association.

“The suicides have prompted many to encourage colleagues to seek help if they need it and renewed calls for more continuing education about suicide, mental health, substance abuse and depression for the legal community,” report Beth Musgrave and Valarie Honeycutt Spears of the Lexington Herald-Leader.

Lexington lawyer Corey Fannin killed himself on Christmas. (Photo illustration from Lexington Herald-Leader, via Kentucky Health News)

“Lawyers are 3.6 times more likely to suffer from depression than non-lawyers, according to the American Psychological Association. Substance abuse rates for lawyers are also much higher than non-lawyers.”

Three of the lawyers who killed themselves practiced in Lexington and one was from Paintsville.

John Meyers, executive director of the bar association, said its board of governors will talk Friday about what additional resources “we can bring to the table to try to help this problem.”

Louisville lawyer Wilson Greene wants the association to require one hour of education for lawyers focusing on mental health, substance abuse, depression and stress management, partly so they are aware of how to get help. “This is a problem that lawyers have known about for a while,” Greene said. “Because of the stresses, lawyers are more prone to suicide and substance abuse.”

Greene and other lawyers told the reporters that many attorneys are afraid to get help or go into treatment, for fear of losing referrals from other lawyers.

“Lawyers are also problem solvers and fixers,” and can spread themselves too thin, the reporters note. “The legal profession is also adversarial. That sets up a win/loss situation.”

Greene said, “Your clients are looking for positive outcomes and sometimes that doesn’t occur. That’s unfortunately a reality of the practice of law. But that drains you, and can pull you down.”

From Kentucky Health News

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