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US: Lawyers are committing suicide at alarming rates

CNN
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Monday, January 20, 2014 - 5:18pm

Amid news of death penalties on the decline and murder rates dropping in cities like Chicago, it might surprise you to hear there's one death rate that's very high.

Lawyers are killing themselves at alarming rates across the country.

The string of obituaries seemed endless. One after the other. About fifteen in all.

Successful Kentucky lawyers, all found dead.

"To a large degree it's been trial attorneys, the men are primarily middle aged," said John Meyers, Director of the Kentucky Bar Association

But the biggest shock was yet to come.

They’re all suspected of taking their own lives.

Harry Rankin, by hanging.

Jim Dinwiddie, a single gunshot wound.

As for Dan Schwartz, CNN: “How did he kill himself?”
“He shot himself upstairs here. He came in at about midnight on a day that he knew that I'd be over in eastern Kentucky," said Larkin Fore, Dan Schwartz's legal partner

We discovered similar patterns in Montana, Florida, North and South Carolina, Mississippi, Ohio and Oklahoma, which in 2006 saw one lawyer suicide every month. The terrible outcome of high rates of depression, which this lawyer's colleague battled before killing himself.

"The biggest factor and why there is a problem in this country and it is called stress, it is an occupational hazard," said Eric Deters, an Ohio lawyer.

Yvette Hourigan of the Kentucky Lawyer Assistance Program found trial lawyers were most at risk. The centers for disease control calculated available suicide data among all professions for CNN: lawyers were in the top five. Lawyers also suffer from depression, the root cause of suicide, at a rate 3.6 times higher than non-lawyers.

"You are dealing with a judge, opposing council, witnesses who may or may not say what you thought they were going to say, a jury you're trying to persuade, it is very high drama all the time and it keeps you in a constant state, of almost crisis," said Hourigan.

Our review of all state bar associations reflects a national concern, 7 even added "a mental health" component to their mandatory license renewals.

Some of these attorneys are highly functional until the very end.

Tabitha Hochscheid's legal partner Ken Jameson generated $600,000 of billable hours his last year.

"His wife gave his eulogy. She talked about how proud he was of his children and his best friends got up and talked about what a wonderful man he was. And then you ask, why would this person take their own life?” Hochscheid told CNN.

Two more lawyers in her office building killed themselves. Hochsheid formed a mental illness assistance group in Jameson's name, for when the stresses of a professional, surrounded by conflict is just too much.

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