Archive for March, 2013

Hampton VA Faulted For Not Following Up on Suicide Risk

Today, there is grave concern about the high suicide rate among veterans driven by PTSD and other lasting mental and physical injuries caused by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In fact, according to the Huffington Post, around 22 veterans each day died by suicide in 2010. Unfortunately, even with a lot of focus on improving mental healthcare for veterans to combat suicide, some VA hospitals and medical centers are falling short.

Suicide lawyer Skip Simpson was recently distressed to read in the Virginian Pilot about one medical center serving veterans in eastern Virginia and North Carolina that is failing suicidal veterans in important ways. Simpson believes that every returning vet deserves to get the help he or she needs to move on with his or her life and to resolve any physical or mental problems they face. When hospitals don’t provide adequate help to suicidal veterans, they need to be held accountable. There are clear safety rules which must be followed. We all learned as children when rules are violated there are consequences. If not there is no incentive to get proper training and for hospitals to provide adequate staff to protect patients at risk for suicide.

Hampton VA Medical Center Failing Patients

The Hampton VA Medical Center serves nearly 240,000 veterans in both eastern Virginia and the northeastern part of North Carolina. An estimated 300 patients a day seek help from the Hampton VA Medical Center, many of whom are at risk for suicide.

Unfortunately, a recent government inspection discovered that the Medical Center is not providing required follow-up care when discharging suicidal patients.

According to the policy set by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, veterans who are at a high risk of dying by suicide must be evaluated at least weekly when they are discharged from the hospital. The weekly evaluations need to continue for a period of at least 30 days.

In order to ensure veterans get their follow-up evaluations, those who are at high risk of suicide are supposed to have four weekly appointments scheduled at the time they are discharged from the hospital. If the suicidal veterans fail to show up to their weekly appointments, they are supposed to receive follow-up telephone calls.When a patient cannot be reached and does not show up to his appointment, then the VA Medical Center is supposed to call the emergency contact. If the hospital cannot get in touch with the emergency contact and there is a reason to suspect that the veteran is not safe, a follow-up telephone call is supposed to be made to law enforcement.

Unfortunately, an investigation of Hampton Medical Center revealed that in four out of ten cases, discharged veterans were not getting this follow-up care. The investigation was conducted by the department’s Office of Inspector General.

Leaders at the Medical Center have conferred with the Office of the Inspector General and report that they have instituted corrective procedures in order to ensure they are in compliance with policy.

It is extremely important that the Medical Center actually follow up and take steps to ensure that these suicidal veterans are getting the help they need.  If they fail to provide appropriate care and a veteran commits suicide after leaving the facility, then the Medical Center may potentially be held legally accountable for the role it played in failing to protect the patient. This is just common sense and decency. These veterans protected us and we must protect them.

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.

LGBT Teens at Greater Risk of Suicide

Teenagers often have to cope with hormonal issues, issues of bullying, and self-esteem problems that could cause them to consider suicide. For teens who are LGBT — lesbian, gay, bisexual and transexual — they may be subject to additional bullying and concerns about their identity. Because of the added challenges they face, it may come as no surprise that one recent study shows that LGBT teens are at a greater risk of suicide than their heterosexual peers.

Suicide malpractice lawyer Skip Simpson is concerned that these young people are often in situations where they feel suicide is the only way out. He believes it is important to recognize the challenges that LGBT teens face and urges mental health professionals and care providers to be aware of the high risk of suicide and take any necessary steps to prevent their teenage patients from harming themselves.

LGBT Teens at Greater Risk of Suicide

According to the Independent Record, teenagers who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered in middle school or in high school are often subject to verbal harassment; physical harassment and assault. Six of ten LGBT students who participated in a CDC survey reported that they felt unsafe in school and eight in ten had been subject to some type of harassment. In Texas in early March, one of many examples of such bullying was reported. The Huffington Post indicated that a Texas lesbian was beaten unconscious on a playground after defending a bullied child. The man who attacked her shouted anti-gay slurs.

With incidents like these, it should come as no surprise that teens who identify as LGBT are at greater risk of suicide than their peers. In addition to dealing with bullying, they may also be concerned that their identity makes them outsiders and may fear losing the approval of their families or social communities. This can exacerbate suicidal tendencies and is just another factor that makes a difference in explaining the higher suicide rates among LGBT teens.

The difference in suicide rates is striking, with the Independent Record reporting that a national study of adolescents had revealed that LGBT teens were more than twice as likely as their heterosexual peers to have tried to kill themselves. In Montana, where there are a high number of suicides throughout the state, the data also indicates that 15 percent of young people who reported suicide attempts also reported that they had been involved in a same-sex relationship or felt attractions to members of their own sex.

A licensed mental health counselor who is executive director of an outreach program targeted toward LGBT teens and college students indicated that most of his teen and young adult clients had considered suicide. According to his statement to the Independent Record, the counselor believes that the thoughts of suicide may be driven by concern that they cannot have a good life and that getting through high school seems insurmountable.

As long as discrimination and bullying continue, the sad fact is that LGBT teens may continue to be plagued by these thoughts. It is very important for all healthcare providers to be aware of the increased risk of suicide faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender teens and to take appropriate steps to get them the help they need.

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.

Veteran Suicide Rates Reach All-Time High

In January 2013, the San Antonio Express published an article drawing attention to the high number of military suicides. pointed out that this was a major problem both on the national level as well as within the state of Texas.

Suicide negligence attorney Skip Simpson knows that many veterans are struggling with PTSD, joblessness and other mental, physical and social problems, which are contributing to higher suicide rates. We urge veterans’ health administrators, lawmakers and all mental health professionals to provide veterans with the help and support they need to try to curb the record number of suicides that are occurring.

Veteran Suicides Occurring at Record Numbers

According to, the number of military suicides was at a record high in 2012, with 516 military suicides occurring across all branches of the military. Those in the army were most likely to commit suicide, with a total of 325 army suicides. The army deaths accounted for two-thirds of all military deaths-by-suicide in 2012.

The San Antonio Express also indicated that approximately one military suicide occurred every 18 hours over the course of the year. This record-high number of suicides has been reflective of a recent trend. For example, the San Antonio Express quoted data from the army showing that 1,940 army suicides have occurred since 2003. Further, the total suicides over the past ten years — 3,438 — exceeds the 3,256 combat deaths that occurred among the U.S. and allies in Afghanistan.

While this is a national problem, there are also issues local to Texas as well. For example, went on to report that Crime Clean of Texas has seen a fifteen percent increase in total suicides in 2012 and an increase in military suicides for the past 18 months.

The High Veteran Suicide Rate

The high veteran suicide rate is likely driven by many different factors. The San Antonio Express identifies possible causes of the rise in the military suicide rate, which include:

  • Repeated deployments which cause stress.
  • A shrinking military.
  • A slow economy upon return from deployment, which can make it difficult or impossible to find gainful employment.
  • Financial and relationship problems, especially on return from repeated or lengthy deployments.
  • Traumatic brain injuries and other wounds inflicted during combat.
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
  • A loss of identity when they are no longer engaged in active duty service or combat.
  • Difficulty reintegrating into their families and communities.

The military has recognized the problem and is trying to take steps to combat it. However, as a Navy spokesman acknowledged to the San Antonio Express, no one has yet found a way to solve the problem.

Education and outreach efforts are in place to try to stop the rising number of suicides, and the military has policies requiring follow-up care for veterans showing a high risk of suicide who are discharged from VA hospitals and facilities. However, ultimately those who are struggling with suicidal tendencies will need to get help from a qualified mental health professional who can properly diagnose and treat their conditions and provide help to prevent suicide. Mental health professionals must also be trained and equipped to spot signs of suicide and respond appropriately.

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.