Archive for February, 2013

Stigma Remains About Asking for Mental Health Help

When a person is struggling with suicidal tendencies or coping with depression, often the best solution is to seek help from a therapist or a mental health professional. A mental health professional can recognize signs of suicide, take immediate steps to prevent suicide from occurring, and work to create a long-term treatment plan that will help a suicidal person to find another solution.

Unfortunately, in many cases, stigma still remains about asking for help from a therapist or from a mental health professional. Attorney Skip Simpson, who represents families in suicide malpractice lawsuits, believes that this ongoing reluctance among many to get the mental help they need is one of the leading causes of suicide in the United States.

High Suicide Rates Caused by Reluctance to Seek Help

To understand the impact that a reluctance to seek mental help can have, you need only look to the suicide rate in Wyoming. As the Star Tribune’s online website reported, Wyoming has the highest suicide rate in the United States. The state’s suicide ranking has remained in the top five per capita for years, and many of the suicides in the state involve men 50 or older. Many of the suicides also involve death by gunshot wound.

According to the Star Tribune, suicide experts and prevention specialists have been unable to identify the exact reason for such a high suicide rate. However, a therapist at Yellowstone Behavioral Health Center in Cody told the Star Tribune that there were likely three contributing factors to the high suicide rate: a cowboy culture, a rugged individualist mentality, and a stigma about accepting any type of mental health treatment.

While a rural lifestyle is also cited as a strong factor for higher suicide rates, it is the limited access to treatment in these rural areas that likely contributes to the higher rate of suicide. The senior director of research for the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention indicated, for example, that rural areas create a sense of isolation, and that there is typically little access to mental health professionals in many small rural communities.

Furthermore, not only is there limited treatment available, but the director also suggested that there is a culture of shame surrounding seeking treatment. As such, people in these small rural communities may be more resistant to acknowledge that they need help or may be more resistant to acknowledge going into mental health treatment.

To help curb the high suicide rates, Wyoming is trying new methods, including providing a psychological autopsy to family members of suicide victims in order to try to better understand the causes of suicide. However, as long as the cultural stigma about getting mental help remains, and as long as people remain reluctant to seek the assistance of a qualified therapist, it is likely that the state will face grave difficulties in significantly reducing the suicide rate.

The statistics from Wyoming, as well as the opinions from the experts show just how important it is to get treatment and just what an essential role therapists and mental health professionals play in helping people to avoid suicide and find positive alternatives.  Getting folks to proper care is important but making sure the clinician is competent to properly perform a systematic suicide assessment and manage the patient is equally important. In a recent publication “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,” co-authored by Skip Simpson and top national suicidologist details the lack of competence in suicide issues by many clinicians.

If you lost a loved  one to suicide, contact the Dallas Law Offices of Skip Simpson, dedicated to holding mental health counselors accountable. Call  214-618-8222.

Fashionista’s Suicide Draws Attention to Facebook Bullying

Ashley Riggitano was a budding young fashion designer who ran a jewelry business along with a friend. Tragically, on her 22nd birthday, she jumped from the George Washington Bridge and died. She left behind a suicide note signaling out a man that she was having problems with, along with several friends who had engaged in bullying behavior on Facebook.

The young fashionista’s death is drawing renewed attention to the problem of Facebook bullying. Abusive behavior via Facebook and online social media sources has been the cause of numerous suicides in recent years. This tragic high-profile case is yet another reminder of the serious consequences of online harassment. Suicide malpractice lawyer Skip Simpson hopes that this tragic death draws attention to Facebook bullying and puts us one step closer to ending bullying behavior online in order to prevent senseless deaths from occurring.

The Facebook Bullying and Suicide

Ashley Riggitano was described by her part-time employer as a relatively happy person. Her family and friends indicated that, although she suffered from depression, she did not allow her depression to overshadow her life. She was described as a girl who had outlined specific goals for her future and who was thriving in her jewelry design business.

Unfortunately, a Facebook feud and some negative comments directed at her apparently pushed her over the edge and led her to take her own life. In one of the published comments, as reported by the Daily Mail, a former friend posted on her Facebook page a suggestion that she go kill herself on Xanax. The same “friend” also referred to her as a loser.

Clearly, this negative posting, as well as others posted by five friends identified in Riggitano’s suicide note, was a major contributing factor in causing Riggitano to end her own life. It is likely that those who engaged in the Facebook bullying never actually wanted for the 22-year-old to kill herself. Yet, like so many instances of Facebook bullying, the negative posts had a consequence far greater than the posters would have imagined.

The tragic story of the suicide, along with the specific note indicating that Facebook friends were the cause, will hopefully help to raise awareness further about the severe consequences that online bullying can have. It is important that people realize that these types of actions can truly cause someone to do something drastic and end a life.

Monitoring for Signs of Suicide

Although Facebook may have been one of the causes of Riggitano’s death, she had previously attempted suicide in the past, and she was on medications to fight depression.

This raises questions as to whether she was under the care of a mental health professional. If so, the mental health professional would have responsibilities to properly assess for suicide. It is the job of therapists and mental health professionals to monitor for signs of suicide and to intervene if someone appears to be at risk for suicide.

If you lost a loved  one to suicide, contact the Dallas Law Offices of Skip Simpson, dedicated to holding mental health counselors accountable. Call  214-618-8222.

Can a Suicide Prevention Bill Help Reduce Suicide Risk?

Suicide is a problem throughout the United States and is the tenth leading cause of death for Americans. Ultimately, therapists and mental health professionals – when properly trained – are in the best position to stop someone from dying by suicide provided they do their jobs well. However, not everyone is able to get the help they need, and often signs of suicide go unrecognized by peers, parents, loved ones and therapists. A book which helps everyday people to be gatekeepers and protect their loved ones and co-workers is “The Suicide Lawyers: Exposing Lethal Secrets” authored by C.C. Risenhoover. The author interviews Suicide Lawyer Skip Simpson to get his insights on how family members can assist loved ones at risk for suicide.

Some states, however, are making an effort to publicize the signs of suicide and to ensure that people do get the help they need. This year in Utah, for example, KSL reports that a suicide prevention bill is being considered by legislatures. Suicide lawyer Skip Simpson will be watching Utah lawmakers to see if the bill is passed and to see what impact the legislation has on curbing suicide among youth.

The Suicide Prevention Bill

Utah’s proposed suicide prevention bill is being considered along with anti-bullying bills in this year’s legislative session. The anti-bullying bills will supplement the state’s 4-year-old bullying law and are also aimed, in part, at curbing suicide since bullying is a top reason for young people to wish to end their lives.

The suicide prevention bill, however, has a very specific goal. The goal is to expand the Hope Squad program that one school district has tried and to require all schools within the state to implement some of the things that Hope Squad has been doing.

The focus of Hope Squad is to bring parents, peers and students together to teach them about the signs of suicide and to teach them how to respond to suicide. The suicide prevention bill, therefore, would encourage all school districts to come together with parents and students to help prevent suicides through education and support.

Some of the different steps that will be taken may include providing suicide awareness of information, conducting parent seminars, strengthening resources on bullying and improving communication between schools and parents.

Suicide is a major problem in the state of Utah, with two youths and three young adults treated for attempting suicide every single day. Utah also has the 17th highest suicide rate in the country, and suicide is the second leading cause of death both for young adults and adults. The state’s efforts to increase education and to help schools, students and parents fight against this suicide epidemic will hopefully be successful in curbing this silent epidemic.

Can a Suicide prevention Bill Help Lower the Risk of Suicide?

If Utah’s bill passes, it will be important to observe the effects of the bill on the suicide rate. Ultimately, the bill will hopefully be successful provided that parents, schools and students really do recognize the signs of suicide early and provided that people are able to get the help they need. Of course, mental health professionals will also need to be equipped to provide appropriate treatment for those who are considering suicide, since parents and schools alone cannot stop someone who wants to end his or her life. Proper mental health treatment is ultimately the best and only answer to preventing suicide on a long-term basis.

If you lost a loved one to suicide, contact the Dallas Law Offices of Skip Simpson, dedicated to holding mental health counselors accountable. Call  214-618-8222.

Gun Shops Make Efforts to Curb Suicides

A gun is one of the most widely used methods of committing suicide, and not just among people who own guns. Tragically, there have been many instances of suicidal individuals going to gun shops or shooting ranges that rent weapons and committing suicide on site. One gun shop, Target Sports Shooting Range, which has been the site of two successful suicides and one attempted suicide since September, has now changed its policy to help prevent suicides.  Local officials are also looking for other solutions as well to help curb the problem.

Death by suicide is always tragic, no matter how it occurs.  Suicide attorney Skip Simpson believes that everyone needs to come together to spot signs of suicide and to prevent those who are suicidal from taking the final step to end their lives. While therapists and mental health professionals are often in the best position to prevent suicide from occurring, the efforts made by the gun shop and the change in policy may stop people from getting access to guns and hopefully help to save at least some lives.

Suicides at the Gun Shop or Shooting Range

According to  The Detroit News, Target Sports is a shooting range located in Royal Oak that allowed visitors to the range to rent weapons. Unfortunately, some visitors came to the range with the specific intent of renting a gun to end their lives. While the two suicides and one attempted suicide since September have made headlines in recent months, they are not the only suicides to have occurred at Target Sports. In fact, since 2001, there have been a total of five successful suicides and two attempts there.

The multiple suicides in recent months, however, have prompted city officials, including the mayor, to seek solutions to the problem. Gun shop staff and the RoyalOak Task Force will be working together, looking for solutions and considering what other shooting ranges have done in an attempt to solve the problem.

One change has already been made at the range in an attempt to curb suicide attempts. The new policy at Target Sports is that no one may rent a weapon or time at the gun range any more unless they already have their own weapon. This will hopefully discourage people who believed that the shooting range had provided easy access to guns they could use to end their lives.

A nonprofit organization, Common Ground, has also reached out to Target Sports in order to offer mental health first aid training, suicide prevention material to post at the range, and a crisis response team. Hopefully, their efforts will be able to reach people who come to the gun range with suicidal intentions.

City Commissioner Peggy Goodwin also indicated that raising awareness of suicide will be important since many people are unaware that suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. The Commissioner expressed concern that many people are not seeking help, and tragically this is a very valid concern.

If you lost a loved one to suicide, contact the Dallas Law Offices of Skip Simpson, dedicated to holding mental health counselors accountable. Call  214-618-8222.