September 7-13, 2015 is National Suicide Prevention Week. Given the high rate of depression among law students and lawyers, we felt compelled to write a post increasing awareness about suicide and depression.
Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the United States and the second leading cause of death among individuals between the ages of 15 and 34. Last year, CNN reported that the proportion of lawyers that were committing suicide was much higher than in the past. In fact, lawyers rank fourth (behind dentists, pharmacists, and physicians – in that order) in the highest per capita suicide rate. CNN also reports that lawyers are 3.6 times more likely to suffer from depression than non-lawyers.
This high depression rate also extends to law students. One study found that just before entering law school, law students suffered from depression at the same rate as the general population, but by spring of their first year, 32% were depressed. By spring of their third year, 40% were depressed. Two years after graduation, 17% of the students were still depressed (which is twice the rate of depression as the general population). These rates of depression in the legal community are staggering.
If you are feeling depressed or suicidal, or if you notice signs of depression or suicide in a friend, there are plenty of resources to consult. The Dave Nee foundation, a foundation that honors Dave Nee, a third year law student who committed suicide in 2005, posted these helpful guides about the signs of suicide and depression. That foundation also has a plethora of resources on its website, particularly for law students who are suffering from depression or contemplating suicide.
The Signs of Suicide:
If you notice these signs in yourself or a friend, immediately call 1-800-273-8355 (TALK), the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline;
- Threats to hurt or kill oneself, or talking about wanting to hurt or kill oneself
- Talk or writing about suicide or death, when these actions are out of the ordinary for the person
- Obtaining or looking for ways to kill oneself by seeking access to firearms, available pills, or other means
- Giving away prized possessions and other personal things
If you cannot reach this contact, go to an emergency room or mental health walk-in clinic, make sure you are not alone until professional help arrives and be sure that any firearms, alcohol, drugs or sharp objects that could be used in a suicide attempt are removed.
The Signs of Depression:
If you find yourself or a friend experiencing these, seek help immediately. Nothing is more important than your mental health:
- Feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness, depressed mood, poor self esteem or guilt
- Withdrawal from friends, family and activities that used to be fun
- Changes in eating or sleeping patterns: Are you sleeping all the time? Or having trouble falling asleep? Are you gaining weight or never hungry?
- Anger, rage, or craving for revenge: Sometimes people notice they are overreacting to criticism
- Feeling tired or exhausted all of the time
- Trouble concentrating, thinking, remember or making decisions: Are you suddenly struggling in school or at work? Sometimes academic or professional performance suffers and grades drop or work product worsens
- Restless, irritable, agitated or anxious movements or behaviors
- Regular crying
- Neglect of personal care: Have you stopped caring about your appearance or stopped keeping up with your personal hygiene?
- Reckless or impulsive behaviors: Are you drinking or using drugs excessively? Are you behaving unsafely in other ways?
- Persistent physical symptoms such as headaches, digestive problems or chronic pain that do not respond to routine treatment
- Thoughts about death or suicide
If you are worried a friend may be thinking about suicide, immediate action is critical.
In honor of National Suicide Prevention Week, we are donating to the Dave Nee foundation to support the distribution of materials on mental health as well as the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, in honor of a loved one.
Ms. Ashley Heidemann graduated as the number 1 law student out of over 200 students in her class of 2011 at Wayne State University. She, along with a team of tutors, tutors for law students and the bar exam. She also offers a Law School Preparatory Course for students interested in learning the skills necessary to achieve a high GPA in law school prior to starting law school.