Many of you who follow me on Facebook, Twitter, or through the Sports Dude know my love of music and concerts (was at Billy Joel last weekend, and have U2 coming up on Saturday).

I’m unashamedly an ’80s New-Wave/punker, and Eric was a club DJ throughout the ’80s and ’90s (ashamedly for the Red Onion), but we love all things music and I have a special affinity for the ’90s Seattle music scene (no NKOTB for me).

This morning I woke to the news that Chris Cornell, frontman for Soundgarden, collaborator with Eddie Vedder in Temple of the Dog, as well as Audioslave, had died.

I posted my favorite song from Temple of the Dog:

Followed by these two gems that I had never heard before, but found through others sharing on Twitter:

 

 

The Whispers Surrounding Suicide

In between these posts were whispers of suicide. But as my day progressed, and the news confirmed that Chris died by suicide, I couldn’t help but break a bit.

My heart breaks for his wife and children. For his friends and fans. For him. Whatever was plaguing him was most likely not permanent, but his solution was.

My heart also breaks for Michael, my first crush in junior high. I was 15 and had fractured my knee. He would sneak out of class to carry my books. Our lockers were right next to each other. We used to send notes back and forth, and he kissed me on the cheek. Once.

Michael also took his life, at 52 last year. He left behind a wife and a couple children. From what I heard, he suffered from depression. I hadn’t seen him in 35 years, so I don’t know. But my heart broke a bit that day for Michael, his wife and children, and the kind and beautiful boy I once knew.

Yet when stories like this hit, I can’t help but look at my own life. Eric and I are in our 50s. I work in the legal industry, and he’s a white male. I’m a sober alcoholic, and he’s the child of Holocaust survivors. All of this increases our risks of depression and suicide.

My grandfather suffered from depression, and died, a “possible suicide,” when he was 53. My mother was pregnant with me at the time, and I am named for him.

Eric just turned 54. He’s had health issues that he has shared. He has lost his parents. While we are a family, he does not have children of his own (our only pregnancy ended in a miscarriage of our son).

I just turned 52. I am sandwiched between my parents who, while very independent, are starting to age. My one kid  is preparing for college, and the other is coming out transgender. I have a mortgage, and can’t even begin to figure out how we’ll afford college considering what it costs today, especially as Eric begins his new business.

Yes, Eric and I talk about these things, but we never use the word “depression.” I know that will change.

Suicide Rates and Lawyers

I then look around my office.

Attorneys are at higher risk of depression and suicide as well. in fact, according to Mental Health Daily, lawyers rank 8th for professions with the highest suicide rates.

According to what I read, he’s at a higher risk of depression and suicide because, for an unknown reason, suicide rates peak for men in their 50s.

8. Lawyers

  • Odds: 1.33

Becoming a lawyer requires significant education and educational expenses. Additionally, once an individual completes the necessary education to become a lawyer, they often have accumulated debt from student loans. Simultaneously, they often have difficulties finding a good job that meets their expected income level. It should also be mentioned that law students tend to become depressed before they establish themselves as lawyers. Some reports suggest that nearly 40% of law students deal with depression.

Working lawyers are thought to have higher rates of depression than the average U.S. citizen. – some research indicates their rates are approximately 3.6 times that of average occupations. The fact that lawyers are more prone to depression and often have to work long, stressful hours to establish themselves, their mental health can suffer. This can spiral into thoughts of suicide, and if a lawyer feels as if there’s no escape from their stressful career, they may act on those thoughts.

Obviously not all lawyers suffer from depression and suicidal ideation, it just happens to be more common in this particular occupation. Statistics indicate that lawyers are 1.33 times more likely to off themselves as an average citizen. The skyrocketing rates of depression and suicide in recent years have lead to the implementation of mandatory psychological evaluations for lawyers in certain states.

We as a society, and especially as a profession, do not talk about depression or suicide. We only whisper about it, after the fact. But we need to break that stigma, instead of breaking hearts and the souls of our children.

I know this will get posted on Twitter and Facebook, but this is the number for the National Suicide Hotline – 1-800-273-8255 and a link to their chatline.

  • Merry Neitlich

    What a heartfelt post. Thank you for all of this. Love you. We needed to read these words.

  • Roy Sexton

    Powerful, candid, and extremely important. Thank you for this, Heather. Love you.

  • Krista

    Well said, Heather. Having embraced the 90’s grunge movement, Cornell’s death struck a chord in me as well. I wholeheartedly agree that the stigma surrounding mental health issues needs to be lifted. Especially in the legal field, where our facades are, unfortunately, seemingly everything. I am a newcomer to your blog, and I find your brutal honesty inspiring. With this post, you made an honorable contribution to helping combat the stigma.

  • Gary Mitchell

    Thank you for this post Heather. This is a discussion that must continue. I just posted on Facebook Saturday as I marked the 6th anniversary of my best friend taking his life. He had a mental illness. My sister battles as well. It’s everywhere. It’s time to get rid of the stigma and talk about it more. Everyone is touched, has been touched or will be touched by this. Again, thank you for your post.