I remember two things from working as an intern at OSHA: accidents happen all the time and safety is usually an afterthought. The leading cause of death for people aged 1-44 is unintentional injury; accidents. For people aged 10-34, suicide is number two.

So when I read “Reducing the Stigma: The Deadly Effects of Untreated Mental Illness and New Strategies for Changing Outcomes in Law Students,” the statistics seemed relevant. Well, sort of anyway. I kept obsessing over one line of the law review article:

CNN reported that suicide by occupation (as calculated by the CDC) lists lawyers in the top five.

What CNN actually reported was that “[l]awyers ranked fourth when the proportion of suicides in that profession is compared to suicides in all other occupations in the study population (adjusted for age)” (emphasis added). But CNN does not reference the report from the CDC. The only regular CDC publication regarding suicide and occupation is the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR). Also, yikes.

Before looking at the data, it is important to note that these statistics are based on civilian, noninstitutionalized, working persons aged 16-64. This means we already have gaps (military, institutionalized, unemployed, and possibly incarcerated).

When compared by sex, male-bodied people are committing suicide at over 3x the rate of female-bodies people. The table below shows the the rates by sex for selected occupations with highest rates (suicides per every 100,000 people).

Occupation Male Occupation Female
 Legal 16.3  Legal 7.9
 Average 27.4  Average 7.7
 Fishing & Hunting Workers 119.9  Artists & Related Workers 45.5
 Artists & Related Workers 93.5  Laborers & Freight, Stock, & Material Movers (Hand) 20.9
 Structural Iron & Steel Workers 79.0  Personal Care Aides 12.1
 Automotive Service Technicians & Mechanics 64.8  Retail Salespersons 11.5
 Chefs & Head Cooks 47.8  Wait Staff 11.3
 Farmers, Ranchers, & Agricultural Managers 43.2  Registered Nurses 10.1

Maybe something changed between 2014 and the current CDC data. Maybe I’m looking at different data. What I’ve found makes me think in a different direction: what impact does the law have on the suicide rates of other occupations?

For example, let’s pretend we are part of a deep sea fishing crew chasing crabs in the Pacific.

Statistically, deep sea fishing crew members are committing suicide at 4x the male average (or 12x the female average). What safeguards have been put into place? Is there annual screening? Victim compensation funds? 10-year plans for industry reform? I know everyone wants to buy king crab at Costco, but don’t we have an obligation to look out for these vulnerable people?

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