If you are having thoughts of suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (TALK). You can find a list of additional resources at SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources.
Everything a person says or does says something about them. The question is whether we understand what is being said. Recently, I was talking with one of our clinicians trying to process news that a young, gifted lawyer in Boston had died by suicide. The clinician asked several questions about the method and the time of day, she remarked how there was a reason for the choices the woman made.
On Sunday, January 30, 2022, Lauren Sampson died by suicide by train. At some point that same day, Chelsie Kryst, a former Miss USA, and a lawyer, also died by jumping from a high rise building in New York. When a suicide occurs in a public place, the individual has made a choice that their death would not be private. Maybe, because of grief, suffering, or other illness, the choice isn’t really a choice but, it does present an opportunity to be interrupted.
While turning this thought over in my mind for accuracy, I bumped into instances I learned of when a person survived suicidal ideations or death by alcohol and drugs. In each of those stories there was one person who said, “hey! What are you doing?!” Or “come with me…” Again and again, there was a pivotal moment when one person interrupted and saved a life. The person who saved the life paused in their day long enough to show empathy and kindness; humanity that regards life.
In thinking about who was on the platform with Lauren Sampson or who Chelsie Kryst passed on her way up to the place from which she jumped; I wonder why they were not interrupted. Somehow, their decisions were their closing argument on their view of the world. Though we cannot know for sure their thoughts about the world around them. What I know is that no one interrupted them in the moment before they jumped to their deaths.
Some will say that a person who is determined to take their life will find a way. Maybe, but there is also evidence that people who survived a suicide attempt decided immediately after they jumped, they wanted to live, and some recent high-profile cases show the ambivalence a person experiencing suicidal ideations may feel. Regardless, hopelessness that brings one to the moment carries the idea that there is not enough kindness or regard to make a difference that make life worth living.
Kindness and regard seem so simple, and yet, it is complex because we don’t know in either of these cases whether they felt hopeless as individuals or because of society. When and where they lost hope is an open question. How do we know when we have a difficult encounter with someone whether that will bring them to the brink? I don’t know the answer to that question. I do know that no one stopped and noticed what happened right in front of them. My heart is heavy because of that.
Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers is here, and we have been here since 1978. The fact that our phones are working is not enough, apparently. An agency is not enough, certainly not in these cases. We must individually and collectively open our eyes and be willing to pause to see what is happening.
Sometimes it takes just one person to reach out their hand and connect with another soul that is hurting. Let’s be attentive to ourselves and each other. In a moment of stress, conflict, or disagreement practice empathy and be mindful of the humanity of those with whom you are in disagreement. In a moment that may seem to have nothing whatsoever to do with you, but you see someone is in danger or at risk, have empathy. Show kindness and perhaps, even take them by the hand. You may well save a life. And imagine of all the things you want said about you, wouldn’t you want that to be one.
Written by Stacey A. L. Best, LCL MA Executive Director
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