Before I begin, this post may be triggering for some. I want my blog to be a safe space so please feel to close this tab or go to my cat’s Instagram page
I want to talk about suicide in law.
It’s a sensitive subject so I will proceed with much care, sensitivity, and love. A study showed that lawyers ranked 5th in suicide among other occupations.
November 2016. Late February 2017. Those two dates are forever etched in my mind because alone in Ottawa, I almost took my own life. Twice. To this day, I tear up thinking about my attempts. Suicide is … an odd thing. It drains you. You are a shell of yourself. It’s not a short term recovery. It’s a long process. I think the best description of suicide is from the comedian Patton Oswalt:
I’ve brushed up against this darkness and I know it’s a tempting exit but REACH OUT to ANYONE. Stay on this side of it — in the light and warmth. Where you get to try again, every day.
The exit. You see, once you’ve seen suicide, you are tempted when life is overwhelming to use that “exit door.” Admittedly, I’m no exception. Part of my recovery is forgetting that the exit door is there. It’s 2018 and I’m still in therapy for it.
So how does play in law? Law is overwhelming. Law schools are failing in teaching us how to cope with failure because the blunt reality, law rewards success and punishes failure. So let’s say you failed criminal law 101. You have to retake the class. But law schools seldom offer summer school classes. So you are forced to take crim 101 again, along with your full 2L course load. This is exhausting. Another example: let’s say you failed the bar – there is immense dread because you can’t help but feel “I invested all this time and money to not become a lawyer.” This is a demoralizing idea.
We don’t talk about failure in law because odds are, if you got into law school, you succeeded a lot to get there. In other words, “what is this failure you talk about?”
Yet, we know failure happens because we are human. For the most part, folks learn from failure. That’s great.
But not all folks get that message – especially those folks who may be predisposed to depression and suicide. I’ll use myself as an example: when I failed my bar in June 2017, I wanted to use that exit door again.
By October 2017, I really wanted to “go” because I felt like a complete idiot for failing. Folks told me to live and learn. True. But when the system rewards success with pomp and pageantry, you can’t help but feel…like crap.
Law schools, law firms, legal minds, judges (hey Bev hey!): let’s talk failure. It happens as a community. Teach us how to cope, without losing ourselves.
Canada Suicide Prevention Hotline: in French or English: toll-free 1-833-456-4566 Available 24/7