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Suicide is a recurring topic in the legal profession. On 19 August 2018, another fellow lawyer committed suicide. He was only 45 years old, leaving behind his two children. A local newspaper reports[1] that it was due to financial problems. His demise forces us to confront the reality that anyone may fall victim to their inner demons.
Statistics collected by the police show that 1,696 people died committing suicide while 625 attempted but failed between 2014 and February 2018[2]. How many of these are fellow lawyers are unknown. This is due to under-reporting by the press for various reasons.
The causes to suicide are complex. Presumably for lawyers, it can be generally attributed to:
  1. high stress;
  2. the adversarial nature of the profession;
  3. not meeting the high expectations that lawyers place on themselves;
  4. working environment in the legal profession; or
  5. financial burdens.
This may ultimately lead to depression, substance abuse and suicide.
Social isolation can increase the risk of suicide and, conversely, having strong human bonds can be protective against it. If you’re practising solo, it is important that you stay connected with friends, family and the legal fraternity. Do not let work and stress overwhelm you. When it does, reach out for support and help. Officers at the Bar Council PII & Risk Management Department are ready to provide support and listen to any members who have problems coping with stress and hardships in legal practice.  Otherwise, get in touch with the Befrienders KL. They provide emotional support for people who are lonely, in distress, or having suicidal thoughts. They can be reached through their 24-hour hotline at 03-7956 8145. You could also email them at or choose to have face-to-face meetings at their centre in Petaling Jaya.  
For the rest of us who are fortunate enough to not have to face these challenges, keep an eye out for those around you. Sometimes, the most unsuspecting friend or family will fall victim. Keep an eye for a change in behaviour or the presence of entirely new behaviours. Most people who take their lives exhibit one or more warning signs, either through what they say or what they do.
If a person talks about:
  • Being a burden to others
  • Feeling trapped
  • Experiencing unbearable pain
  • Having no reason to live
  • Killing themselves
Specific things to look out for include:
  • Increased use of alcohol or drugs
  • Looking for a way to kill themselves, such as searching online for materials or means
  • Acting recklessly
  • Withdrawing from activities
  • Isolating from family and friends
  • Sleeping too much or too little
  • Visiting or calling people to say goodbye
  • Giving away prized possessions
  • Aggression
People who are considering suicide often display one or more of the following moods:
  • Depression
  • Loss of interest
  • Rage
  • Irritability
  • Humiliation
  • Anxiety
Hence, though having a work-life balance might seems to be a distinct dream but making minor changes and setting small challenges to your daily life might help to mitigate the demands of lawyering.