In a January 2014 article, CNN asked the question “Why are lawyers killing themselves?” It was a sobering look into the dramatic rise in lawyer suicides across the United States…
In December 2013, prominent Miami criminal defense attorney Richard S., described as a “quick-witted showman who represented everyone from cocaine cowboys to troubled cops during a long and colorful career, was found dead in his Miami Beach condo.” The news of his death — ruled a suicide by the Dade County Medical Examiner — left the South Florida legal community in shock. Karen M., a former assistant public defender in Lee County, Miami, Tampa, and Collier County, was found dead at her home Ft. Myers in March 2014. Her otherwise successful career had been marred by a struggle with alcohol, eventually leading to a public reprimand and a period of probation. Former Broward Assistant State Attorney Rochelle S. died after falling 15 stories from the roof of a Ft. Lauderdale condo in October 2014, despite her years of community service and advocacy, and certification as a Life Coach and a Mental Toughness Coach. Although a member of many Broward County Bar Association sections and the Legislative Affairs Committee, a member of the Broward County Women’s Lawyer Association, and a recipient of numerous honors based on her legal, leadership, and mentoring skills to the KDA Foundation, there was obviously something else going on inside. In July 2000, Hillsborough State Attorney Harry Lee C. took his own life after an investigation began regarding his longstanding compulsive gambling issue…
Remember, help is just a phone call away:
Florida Lawyers Assistance is a nonprofit corporation formed in 1986 in response to the Florida Supreme Court’s mandate that a program be created to identify and offer assistance to Bar members who suffer from substance abuse, mental health, or other disorders that negatively affect their lives and careers (Bar Rule 2-9.11). FLA is independent of The Florida Bar, although it works cooperatively with the Bar and does receive financial and material support from that organization.
Paramount to FLA is the protection of confidentiality for those attorneys who voluntarily contact FLA for help. Confidentiality in voluntary cases is protected by a written contract with The Florida Bar, which guarantees the confidentiality of FLA records, as well as by Bar Rule 3-7.1(j), F.S. Ch. §§397.482-486, and other state and federal regulations.
Judges, attorneys, and law students who seek the assistance of FLA need not worry that FLA will report them to the Bar, the Board of Bar Examiners, or their employer. Information is shared with these entities only if the participating individual signs a waiver of confidentiality. FLA’s primary purpose is to assist the impaired attorney in his or her recovery.
The Florida Lawyers Assistance 24-hour hotline is 800-282-8981. A compassionate voice is waiting to guide you in seeking the best solutions to your current predicament. In the event the circumstances warrant immediate intervention, contact 911 or The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255), which will connect you to a skilled, trained counselor at a crisis center in your area, anytime 24/7.
We all share in the belief that “No matter what problems you are dealing with, we want to help you find a reason to keep living.”
Scott Weinstein is a licensed psychotherapist, and FLA’s full-time clinical director. He is available at the FLA hotline or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.