Four Kentucky lawyers have committed suicide in the last three weeks, according to the Kentucky Bar Association.

"The suicides have prompted many to encourage colleagues to seek help if they need it and renewed calls for more continuing education about suicide, mental health, substance abuse and depression for the legal community," report Beth Musgrave and Valarie Honeycutt Spears of the Lexington Herald-Leader.

"Lawyers are 3.6 times more likely to suffer from depression than non-lawyers, according to the American Psychological Association. Substance abuse rates for lawyers are also much higher than non-lawyers."

Lexington lawyer Corey Fannin killed himself on Christmas.
(Lexington Herald-Leader photo illustration)

Three of the lawyers who killed themselves practiced in Lexington and one was from Paintsville.

Corey Fannin, 40, was "a highly successful Lexington trial lawyer who in 2015 won a $18 million verdict against a nursing home that included the largest award for pain and suffering in a nursing-home case," reports Andrew Wolfson of the Courier Journal.

"The president of the state bar association has taken the extraordinary step of emailing all 19,000 attorneys in Kentucky urging them to 'help take better care of each other'," Wolfson reports. Thomas Kerrick of Bowling Green also wrote, "I urge everyone reading this to lift up our friends and colleagues whenever and wherever we can."

Louisville lawyer Wilson Greene wants the bar association to require one hour of education for lawyers focusing on mental health, substance abuse, depression and stress management, partly so they are aware of how to get help. “This is a problem that lawyers have known about for a while,” Greene said. “Because of the stresses, lawyers are more prone to suicide and substance abuse.”

Greene and other lawyers told the reporters that many attorneys are afraid to get help or go into treatment, for fear of losing referrals from other lawyers. 

"Lawyers are also problem solvers and fixers," and can spread themselves too thin, the reporters note. "The legal profession is also adversarial. That sets up a win/loss situation."

Greene said, “Your clients are looking for positive outcomes and sometimes that doesn’t occur. That’s unfortunately a reality of the practice of law. But that drains you, and and can pull you down.”

In 2013, the director of the American Association of Suicidology told the Courier Journal "that the competitiveness and perfectionism that make good lawyers — and the lack of fulfillment many lawyers feel in practicing law — put them at high risk of alcoholism, drug use, depression and suicide," Wolfson writes. 

Also, during the pandemic, “Lawyers are hurting financially. It’s a grim period for the nation and practicing law, a grueling gig anytime, is even harder,” Shannon Ragland, editor of Kentucky Trial Court Review, told the Courier Journal. He initially reported the rash of suicides.

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