“Shooting at the walls of heartache, bang, bang, I am the warrior”
— Patty Smyth
I got the news that a friend killed himself. One of several lately. All of them middle age men. All of them trial lawyers.
Shannon Ragland, who publishes the must-read Trial Court Review, noted the rash of suicides and one of his readers posted an article from the American Bar Association Journal saying that “lawyers personalities contribute to suicide risks.”
The suicide risk is especially high for trial lawyers. All personality tests tell me why I work in a profession where I assist trial lawyers. I am a fighter for causes, and nothing gets in my way. I am intensely competitive, have a quick temper, rack up insane office hours and go through periods of extreme burnout.
In other words, I have the identical personality of a middle-aged trial lawyer.
I understand how they suffer from depression, mental illness and suicide. Many more try to cope with stress and depression through drinking, drugs or other addictions.
Trial lawyers have a unique caveat to their job. They are always making someone mad. Often times, like the Atticus Finch character in Harper Lee’s classic novel “To Kill a Mockingbird,” they can find that their entire community has turned against them. The stress of being a trial warrior can take a constant toll on a lawyer. A toll that sometime ends in suicide.
I’m in the process of writing a long piece about Peter Perlman, one of the nation’s greatest trial attorneys. You will see the feature next month, but Perlman, a former president of the American Trial Lawyers Association, manages to stay on top of his game after 50 years of trial practice.
Pete has a solid foundation that many of my friends lack. He has been married to his college sweetheart for many years. A star athlete in college and high school, Perlman works out daily and looks 20 years younger than his age. Although no one prepares for a trial with more intensity than Pete does, he manages to find ways to keep his stress level down.
Perlman has his choice of clients. He recently told me that the most important thing to him is becoming friends with his clients and staying friends long after the case is over.
It’s easy to wind up with a client who is demanding and difficult and a constant stressor. It’s also easy to have cash flow and financial issues. Trial lawyers, like many professionals, have a hard time telling people they don’t have money. Since I help a lot of attorneys with their finances, I see the true picture. Many have high overhead with the stress of keeping a high profile on a low bankroll.
Trial lawyers have issues with depression, stress and mental illness far higher than the average population. It’s the nature of the career and the type of person who is attracted to it.
The other thing that trial lawyers don’t do well: ask for help.
Many states, such as Kentucky, have excellent programs set up to help people with substance abuse. Other attorneys have a 12-step program like Alcoholics Anonymous in turning their lives around.
The issues that cause a person to commit suicide are not always triggered by substance abuse. Sometimes people get in the grips of depression so badly that they are unable to get help.
If you know one of them, love on them or kick them in the behind until they get professional help. I went through a rough situation several years ago where my mom and sister died and my marriage ended, all during a six-month period. I was way too “macho” to see a psychologist, but also at a point where I had stopped going to work or communicating.
My dear friend Al Smith, a 50-year veteran of AA and all other kinds of support programs, stayed on me until I saw a shrink. Slowly, I got my life back together. My psychologist and I eventually agreed that I had a handle on my issues.
I now push counseling and therapy on friends constantly. It will get easier financially in 2014 when Obamacare kicks into full gear, with an increased focus on mental health.
That is too late to help my deceased friends, but may help a batch of other friends dealing with the same issues. Also, we should all keep our eyes open for people who are struggling. Even if they are big-time trial lawyers.
The mightiest of warriors can get wounded too. On the inside where no one can see.
Those wounds need to be addressed before it gets too late.
Don McNay is a mediation and settlement consultant based in Richmond and New Orleans. www.donmcnay.com.
“Shooting at the walls of heartache, bang, bang, I am the warrior”
- Lifestyles & Community
Ensuring children develop a habit brushing their teeth
“Are you sure you brushed your teeth?” the father asked his son. His son solemnly nodded. His father said, “Let me smell your breath.” The son obligingly opened his mouth. Finally, the father said, “I need to check and see if your toothbrush is wet.”
This type of exchange happens in many households as children often do not brush their teeth, even when told to do so. This nightly inquisition can occur less frequently if parents establish a habit in their children to brush their teeth.
Saturated fat consumption leads to abdominal fat
New research from Uppsala University shows that eating more saturated fat in the diet causes an increase in the amount of fat stored in the abdominal area in comparison with extra consumption of polyunsaturated fat.
County’s oldest consignment sale begins today
The Little Ones’ Consignment Sale, Madison County’s oldest semi-annual sale of its kind, is open to the public 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. today (Friday) and 8 a.m. to noon Saturday at the multi-ministry center behind United Methodist Church, West Main Street, Richmond. Marked items are half price on Saturday.
There’s more to do at the Village Trough
“I wish there was more to do here.”
Do you ever find yourself saying this sentence as you sit there bored out of your mind? Have you heard others ask it?
Well, there is something more to do now that Village Trough in Berea is staging shows with local and regional talent and preparing to open as a full dining and entertainment venue.
Let’s have a Mardi Gras party in Kentucky
It’s the time of year when the people in New Orleans celebrate a festival called Mardi Gras. Many states now do the same. Some call it “Fat Tuesday” which I have never understood till I went to New Orleans (five times) and saw all of the excitement for myself.
Beat the winter blues with meatballs
When it’s this cold outside it’s nice to warm up with some good comfort food.
I can think of few things more wonderful than the smell of simmering meatballs coming from the kitchen while I cuddle with my two young children, and a few good books, on a brisk winter day.
Taste test Thursday
The sun is shining, but the chill has returned, so I hope you made the most of the warm, sunny weather this weekend.
The spring greens are being as tentative as the warm temperatures, but there is talk of lettuce being harvested and a continued trickle of kale, pea shoots, miner’s lettuce and spinach. To make room for the spring harvests, winter squash and sweet potatoes have been marked down to $1/pound and pumpkins are only 50 cents/pound.
Buttercups in grazed pastures
One of the signs that spring has arrived is when the yellow flowers of buttercup begin to appear, but it’s during the winter months that the vegetative growth of buttercup takes place.
As a cool season weed, this plant often flourishes in overgrazed pasture fields with poor stands of desirable forages. In fact, many fields that have dense buttercup populations are fields heavily grazed by animals during the fall through the early spring months.
Make a difference this summer, volunteer at 4-H Camp
On June 30 more than 200 Madison County kids will load a bus headed for four days and three nights of fun at 4-H Summer Camp.
Campers will have a chance to hike, swim, dance and spend time learning about the environment, their friends and themselves.
And we need your help to make it possible!
A whole lot going on
Downtown Richmond Farmers Market opening
The new Downtown Richmond Farmers Market officially opens Saturday.
This market will set up in downtown Richmond on North First Street between Main and Irvine streets Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. (weather permitting).
For more details, go to www.downtownrichmndfarmersmarket.com. There you will find an events calendar and how to sign up for workshops that will be conducted at the market.
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