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Lexington lawyer’s story on suicide, treatment makes cover of leading national legal journal

Lexington Herald-Leader - 12/1/2023

Editor’s note: This story is about suicide and describes sensitive details that could be triggering to some readers. The 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline is a hotline for individuals in crisis or for those looking to help someone else. To speak with a trained listener, call 988.

A Lexington lawyer’s journey with mental health, depression and suicide is this month’s cover story for the American Bar Association Journal, the national magazine of the American Bar Association.

Bruce Simpson, a well-known land use attorney, has used his experiences to encourage others who are suffering to get help.

In January 2023, a series of medical problems followed by an adverse court ruling sent Simpson into a downward tailspin and eventually to a gun shop. When Simpson decided to end his life, the gun misfired.

Simpson survived, got treatment and medication and has “never been better. I should have sought help 40 years ago” he told the Lexington Herald-Leader in an Aug. 23 story about his mental health.

In his first-person account for the ABA Journal, titled: “Making it Back: Bruce Simpson tried to take his own life, then he started healing,” Simpson said he wants to talk about mental health because too few people, including lawyers, do.

Simpson also wrote about his experiences for the Kentucky Bar Association’s Bench and Bar magazine earlier this year. Some studies show lawyers are two to three times more likely than the general population to die by suicide.

“Too many people have prejudicial attitudes about those who need mental health care. A stigma attaches to mental health treatment which does not attach to treatment for cancer, heart disease, and the like. Yet, the pain and incapacity from being mentally overwhelmed can be as pernicious as any physical malady we readily acknowledge,” Simpson wrote.

Yet, suicide is on the rise across the country. More people need to talk about mental health. There is help. People can and do get better, he wrote.

“People are more vulnerable to being mentally shattered, given certain life crises, than they sometimes can appreciate. I do not want anyone I can influence, lawyer or not, to descend into an unstoppable spiral to the point of no return,” Simpson wrote. “There is a path forward which is not permeated with sadness or misery. Rewarding therapeutic help is available and more importantly, it works! Please, for yourself, your family, and your friends, reach out for it.“

Simpson’s story has already saved lives.

Several people who were in crisis contacted Simpson after reading his story in the Herald-Leader. Those people were able to get help, he said.

Lawyers seeking assistance can contact the Kentucky Lawyer Assistance Program at 502-226-9373 or at its website at www.kylap.org. All communications are confidential.

The 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline is a hotline for individuals in crisis or for those looking to help someone else. To speak with a trained listener, call 988. Crisis Text Line is a texting service for emotional crisis support. To speak with a trained listener, text HELLO to 741741. It is free, available 24/7, and confidential.

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