Archive for March, 2012

Teen Suicide Warnings and Why Teen Bullying, Drugs, Alcohol and Depression Matter

Teenagers face immense pressures, often from all sides—parents, teachers, siblings, employers and, very often, classmates. They are at one of the most difficult times of life, struggling to figure out who they are and what they want to do when they grow up, but also having to navigate through daily outside pressures, expectations, challenges and disappointments. The harsh truth is that teen suicide is more common than most of us think.

In 2009, an average of one young person every two hours killed him or herself. In fact, youth suicide is such a major public health problem in the United States, more teenagers and young adults die from suicide than from cancer, heart disease, AIDS, birth defects, stroke, pneumonia and influenza, and chronic lung disease combined.

More than 4,371 children and young adults take their own lives every year, making suicide the third overall cause of death for people 10 to 24 years of age. Children and young adults account for 14.4 percent of all suicides completed, and it begs the question: Why are there so many hopeless teenagers, who can see no other way to handle life’s challenges? Does it mean there are more cases of suicidal teen depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorders, drug dependency, abuse disorders and schizophrenia? Or is it a reflection of our society as a whole and that too much exposure to the media or the social pressures of technology are becoming too much of a burden on kids?

According to the American Association of Suicidology, one in 11 high school students made a suicide attempt in the past 12 months. School psychologists have particular insight into the problem, with 86% of those surveyed reporting that they’d counseled a student who had threatened or attempted suicide and 62% attesting that they’ve had a student make a nonfatal suicide attempt at school.

Parents, caregivers, school authorities, pediatricians and child psychologists all need to pay attention to teen suicide warning signs, and as Texas suicide lawyer Skip Simpson knows well, they can be subtle. Most suicidal youths do not tell adults about their distress, and only rarely are the signs recognized by adults, including school personnel or parents, who presumably have the most opportunity to respond with help

Most teens contemplating suicide do show some sort of indication that they are in emotional trouble, but loved ones and school authorities must be very attuned and involved in order to read those signs. A child may become unusually withdrawn, start acting out with drug or alcohol abuse, become sexually promiscuous or have episodes of sheer rage and all could be signs of an underlying teenage psychological problem. Though a diagnosable mental, emotional, or behavioral disorder is present in 80% to 90% of youth who die by suicide, less than one-third of teen suicide decedents or attemptors were receiving treatment at the time of their death/attempt.

Part of the issue is that teenagers live entirely in the moment. It is nearly impossible for them to be able to see that “this too shall pass” and to gain some perspective on what they may perceive as a crisis either academically or in their social group.

A factor in helping reduce adolescent suicides is for parents to stay as involved, compassionate and loving as possible, so that their child knows he or she is not alone and has support every step of the way through those difficult teen years. And if a mom, dad or other loved one has even an inkling that a teen is thinking of suicide, they must act, immediately, by getting that child to a mental health clinician for assessment. If a teenager says anything along the lines of “I want to kill myself,” don’t be fooled by comments that may follow, such as “I was only kidding”. Take anything and everything to do with possible suicide seriously—you could be the one who saves a teen’s life.

The experts at the Law Offices of Skip Simpson Attorneys and Counselors have the wisdom and compassion their clients need in times of distress and crisis. If you or a loved one has suffered from the pain of loss due to a suicide, inpatient suicide or mental health malpractice, you need the guidance and experience of Skip Simpson Attorneys and Counselors. Call us at 214-618-8222 or complete our online contact form to schedule a free consultation.

The Law Offices of Skip Simpson
2591 Dallas Parkway, Suite 300
Frisco, Texas 75034

Bill in Washington State would require suicide risk training for medical professionals

It’s devastating to lose a family member or friend to suicide. Sadly, the suicide victim may have recently seen a medical professional who likely lacked proper suicide prevention training.

Your family member or close friend who died by suicide may have been saved if his or her medical professionals had proper suicide prevention training. Knowing that the medical professional could not help may add layers of grief.

Unfortunately, a lack of suicide prevention training is pervasive among medical professionals. The state of Washington, however, is taking a step in the right direction by considering a bill that would require mental health therapists, social workers, chemical dependency professionals, counselors and others to complete suicide risk assessment and management training. The requirement unfortunately does not apply to physicians or nurses at this time.

The House passed the suicide prevention bill on Feb. 10. Following the House action, the Senate Health and Long Term Care Committee heard testimony from health care workers and officials. The bill passed out of committee and will likely pass in the Senate.

One state representative, Tina Orwall, a lead sponsor of the bill who has a background in mental health work, described how difficult it is for family members and health care workers to lose someone to suicide.

According to the Oregonian in Washington, Orwall said, “When I think of the loss of the families, to lose a member, it’s just unbearable to think about.”

The Seattle Times reported that many health professionals aren’t prepared to recognize, assess or treat a suicidal patient – and this includes even mental-health providers.

Dallas-based lawyer Skip Simpson, a leading expert in suicide prevention, co-authored with 7 leading suicidologists around the U.S. “Preventing Suicide Through Improved Training in Suicide Risk Assessment and Care: An American Association of Suicidology Task Force Report Addressing Serious Gaps in U.S. Mental Health Training,” a white paper that was mentioned in House testimony to support the legislation.

Simpson and many suicidologists have been calling for proper training among health care professionals for decades. One myth about suicide is that people who are determined to take their lives will do it, and nothing can stop them. The reality is that a properly trained mental health professional can prevent the suicide if the professional is given an opportunity to treat the patient.

Proper suicide risk assessment is crucial. Improper assessment, or a failure to do one at all, can have tragic consequences. A mental health professional may be liable for failing to conduct a suicide risk assessment, or providing only a cursory examination of risk.

The bill would require mental health providers to attend six hours of training on suicide prevention every six years. If the suicide prevention bill passes, Washington would be the first state to require such training. Given the alarming suicide statistics (every 14.2 minutes, someone dies by suicide in the United States; suicide is the tenth leading cause of death), we hope other states will follow Washington’s lead.

At the Law Offices of Skip Simpson, we understand how devastating it is to lose a family member or friend to suicide. If you lost a loved one, you will need a compassionate lawyer who works hard to hold mental health professionals accountable. Contact a Dallas attorney with a highly successful track record who represents clients nationally. Call 214-618-8222 or fill out our online contact form.