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A Suicide After Failing the Bar, a Hard Lesson for the Living

Brian Christopher Grauman, a recent graduate of UC Hastings College of Law, committed suicide after learning that he failed the bar exam.

His death stunned those who knew him best. He was a high-achiever, having graduated from UC Merced with honors. He had served as editor of the school paper and chief justice of the student government judicial branch. In delivering a commencement speech, he spoke about the future of the graduating class.

"We are lucky to be here, and I don't just mean at a commencement ceremony about to receive our degrees," he said. "I mean in the world. Crime, poverty, greed and geographic barriers have each served to prevent people from earning their college degrees. We have a duty to recognize our privilege."

A Hard Lesson

Understanding suicide is one of the hardest lessons in life. Grauman's family, in a letter to the Hastings community, said they are still trying to sort it out. They said he was an intense person and not accustomed to failure.

"It appears the idea of repeating the last 7 months of his life to again prepare for the bar exam and then once more nervously await months for the results was too much for him," they wrote. "We deeply regret that he did not take the time to talk to anyone after learning his exam results."

Suicides in School

In Japan, suicide is an epidemic problem. The suicide rate there is roughly 60 percent higher than the global average, according to a report from the World Health Organization in 2014. Among teens and young adults ages 10-24, there were roughly 4,600 suicide deaths in each year, and another 157,000 instances of hospitalization for self-inflicted injuries.

Studying suicide notes of schoolchildren, investigators noticed a drastic increase in the number of students who blamed school pressures as the primary source of their problems. This may help to explain the growing problem in America. One report has noted that 1 in 12 American teens attempt suicide.

Crossing the Bar

The American Bar Association directs law students to the Dave Nee Foundation, which was established after a law student committed suicide in his battle against depression. Acknowledging a high suicide rate among lawyers, the ABA also encourages members to talk about it: "Increasing public awareness through dialogue and education helps to eliminate the stigma associated with suicide, encouraging more people to seek help."

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline recommends the following when someone is threatening suicide:

  • Be direct. Talk openly and matter-of-factly about suicide.
  • Be willing to listen. Allow expressions of feelings. Accept the feelings.
  • Be non-judgmental. Don't debate whether suicide is right or wrong, or whether feelings are good or bad. Don't lecture on the value of life.
  • Get involved. Become available. Show interest and support.

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