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Lawyers and Their Mental Health

Burdine & Brown Jan. 23, 2020

On August 24, 2019, a Court of Appeal Judge, Stephen Goss committed suicide. In 2018 Judge William G. Johnson, a judge in the Griffin Municipal Circuit fatally shot himself. A number of years ago, Court of Appeals Judge John Kelly Quillia committed suicide.

Many observers believe that it is very difficult for lawyers and judges to speak out and get help. There seems to be a certain stigma associated with mental health issues and treatment.

Depression seems to be the source of and the beginning of burn out, alcoholism, drug abuse and ultimate suicide.

Yet many lawyers suffer in silence. Few seem to seek help, which ironically, is readily available.

The CDC reports that the profession of attorneys comes with the 5th highest suicide rate in the USA.

Attorney Dan Lukasic battled depression for years. He fought back. He said, “The stigma is huge with mental illness and depression in this country. You're supposed to be a problem solver; you're supposed to be superman and superwoman. You're not supposed to have problems. The general public already has a problem with lawyers and when (he) started talking about this problem they did not want to hear it. They thought, ‘a person who makes a lot of money and has this job should not be having problems.'

The American Psychological Association reports that attorneys are 3.6 times more likely to suffer from depression than non-attorneys.

The job of an attorney, particularly a trial attorney, has many stressors, such as:

-long hours at work;


-Self-generated pressure-a tendency towards perfectionism and a low tolerance for failure;

-Dealing with difficult clients;

-A “dog wat dog” work environment.

As a result of the above factors (and probably many more) the attorney's job leaves them in a constant state of crisis. This leads to another serious problem plaguing the lawyers-substance abuse.

“The link between suicide and excessive alcohol abuse is clear.” says Tom Foster with Foster Web Marketing. He cites a study conducted by the Oxford Journal of Medicine demonstrating that “individuals with alcohol dependence have a 60-120 times greater suicide risk than the non-psychologically-ill population.”

Some states are adding a mental health component to the services their state bar association offers. And this service is confidential, a key ingredient.

I do believe that all of these bar related programs leave out deliberately the spiritual aspect of life. This is because everyone is trying to be so politically correct.

While all religion do have a portion or sliver of the right answer to life's meanings, Christianity has the complete answer. Knowing God is knowing the ultimate truth about life. Our society seems to now believe that science and religion are not compatible. This view is far from the truth. One of the most influential Christian philosopher of this modern age, C.S. Lewis, said it this way: “Christianity, if found to be untrue, would mean nothing in our lives. But if Christianity is found to be true, it means everything.”

Accepting Christ as your Lord and Savior is only the beginning of your spiritual journey. But it must start here. Following the commands of Jesus, viewing the world and its problems beginning with our sinful nature and being separated from God, but then realizing that we are accepted through Jesus by God as a new creature, gives us such an optimistic outlook on life that alcoholism and depression seem to fade away.

Our perspective on life changes. Truth, beauty and wisdom are viewed from a spiritual perspective. Who we serve changes. Our relationships no longer are self-centered. We become truly other-centered people.

Of course, there are still issues of life we must deal with. But having the guidance of the Holy Spirit of God makes even the practice of law productive, successful and an enjoyable profession because service to others is performed with helping others as a top priority not serving ourselves. As Frances Schaeffer put it, “God is there, and He is not silent.” I am committed to listening to Him more each day. I hope you are too.”