Archive for July, 2013

Study: Teens Who Exhibit Psychotic Symptoms Have Higher Suicide Risk

According to a recent study conducted by the Royal College of Surgeons in Dublin, Ireland, a link might have been found between adolescents who show psychotic symptoms – particularly those with existing psychopathology – and an increased suicide risk.

At the Law Office of Skip Simpson, our experienced Dallas suicide attorneys understand that the link between treatable mental illness and suicide is well-known. With a strong clinical marker found that links together certain psychological symptoms suicidal thoughts and behaviors, it’s possible that mental health professionals can better serve their patients.

Psychotic Symptoms Found To Indicate Increased Suicidal Thoughts & Behaviors

According to Medscape, the study involved 1,112 school-based adolescents aged 13-16 years and investigated whether the co-occurrence of psychotic symptoms at the start of the study predicted an increase in suicide attempts at 3- and 12-month follow-ups.

What the study found was startling. Teens who reported acute psychotic symptoms had a “10- to 11-fold increased risk for attempted suicide” compared to counterparts who had no psychotic symptoms.

Furthermore, when these psychotic symptoms – hallucinations, delusions, disturbances in thought – are concurrent with existing psychopathologies such as depression and anxiety, the risk further increases. The study reports that adolescents with psychopathology who report psychotic symptoms had nearly a 70-fold increase in their odds of suicidal thoughts, behaviors, and attempts.

With depression and anxiety a major risk factor for suicide, researchers said its prevalence in the population is too high to identify it as a “meaningful group.” Because a much smaller percentage of the population suffering from acute psychotic symptoms and an even smaller percentage suffering from a full-blown psychotic disorder, researchers have suggested that these symptoms are an “under-recognized marker for risk of suicidal behavior.”

New Opportunities For Prevention

Suicide is one of the leading causes of death across the world. With that being said, researchers estimate that a staggering 50% of all patients who die by suicide have contact with a primary care provider within a month before their final attempt. This offers many opportunities for suicide prevention.

This important study illustrates that mental health professionals need to more carefully assess the presence of psychotic symptoms in their patients. When somebody shows signs of psychotic symptoms, they might be at risk to experience increased suicidal thoughts and behaviors.

As the study has shown, when this is the case, help cannot wait.

If you’ve lost a loved one due to suicide, contact the Law Offices of Skip Simpson, dedicated to holding mental health counselors accountable. Call today at (214) 618-8222 for a free case consultation.

Court Allows Lawsuit Against Delaware School District After Teen’s Suicide

Children, teenagers, and other adolescents can be at an especially high risk for suicidal thoughts and behaviors. When kids are at school, it’s the responsibility of school officials to detect warning signs of suicide in students and take preventative measures in the event of a crisis.

According to attorney Skip Simpson, an experienced suicide negligence lawyer, failure to do so could yield tragic results. As a recent Delaware Supreme Court ruling indicated, it can also result in a lawsuit against a school district.

Delaware Supreme Court: School District Might Be Negligent

As a Delaware Online news story recent reported, the Delaware Supreme Court ruled that the grandparents of a 16-year-old who died by suicide in 2009 have sufficient grounds to sue their grandchild’s school district. The Superior Court initially dismissed the case.

In 2009, the 16-year-old boy had spoken with a school counselor about his suicidal thoughts and other problems he was having. Merely hours later, after coming home from school, the boy died by suicide.

His grandparents then filed a lawsuit against the school, saying not only that the school should have notified them about the boy’s crisis so that they could respond accordingly, but that the district failed to follow essential procedures that could have saved his life.

While the Supreme Court and Superior Court agreed that the school could not be held liable for something he did at home, the Supreme Court accepted the argument from the boy’s grandparents parents that the district, school, and counselor were negligent because there were specific rules on how to handle an adolescent in a crisis.

School District Suicide Protocol Designed To Help Students In Crisis

Often, school districts have particular protocols that they must follow if an adolescent shows signs of suicidal thoughts or behaviors. When a student shows these signs, it’s the moral and often legal obligation of teachers, counselors, and other school officials to address the situation immediately and follow necessary protocol.

In this instance, district protocol mandates that a school official must stay with the student, assess the situation, contact parents, get help, document the file and follow up – something the school might have failed to do.

At the Law Office of Skip Simpson, we understand that these safety protocols are designed to prevent adolescents in crisis from dying by suicide. Even the smallest steps taken by guidance counselors, teachers, and other school officials could go a long way in preventing a tragedy.

While it remains to be seen if the Superior Court, which is now hearing the trial again, will agree, this case should serve as a reminder to all school districts that when an adolescent shows suicidal thoughts or behaviors, the decisions they make immediately afterward can change lives forever.

If you’ve lost a loved one due to suicide, contact the Law Offices of Skip Simpson, dedicated to holding mental health counselors accountable. Call today at (214) 618-8222 for a free case consultation.

Texas Lawmakers Consider Suicide Training for School Staff

In 2011, a law passed requiring the Texas Department of State Health Services and Texas Education Agency to compile a list of suicide prevention programs. Now, the Dallas News reports that another law awaits approval from the governor. The new law would require school districts to train staff members to be alert for the signs of mental illness or suicidal tendencies. If staff members noticed potential problems, they would be required to notify parents or guardians that they suspected an increased suicide risk.

Our Dallas suicide lawyers know that suicide is a major problem among teens and that the more people looking out for signs of suicide, the better the chances that suicide can be prevented. Hopefully, the governor will sign the law requiring suicide prevention training among school staff members. But in the meantime some schools have already begun implementing suicide prevention programs ahead of the law’s passage in order to better protect their students.

Suicide Prevention Programs Aim to Protect Students

After the Texas Department of State Health Services and the Texas Education Agency compiled their list of recommended suicide prevention programs, school districts in the state began adopting the programs that were suggested or began implementing their own program.

Several of these school districts, including Rockwall ISD, are located in North Texas. Unfortunately, despite these policies, two Rockwall students, including a high school freshman and an eighth grader, recently took their own lives.  These deaths, however, do not mean that the existing suicide prevention programs have not been effective at saving other teenagers.

Suicide is a major issue in Texas, with 398 young people between the ages of 15 and 24 dying by suicide in 2010.  During that same year, another 22 young people between the ages of 5 and 14 died by suicide.  This is a high number of youth suicides and even one death is a tragedy for parents and for the community at large.

Taking action to prevent further deaths and to reduce the number of kids who lose their lives is essential and teachers and school professionals who spend a lot of time with kids can provide important assistance in recognizing the signs that something is wrong.

Rep. Garnet Coleman, a sponsor of the current bill that would require staff training, has acknowledged that no program can completely prevent suicides. However, he believes that Texas cannot afford to do nothing and that services for the mentally ill need to be increased along with education about suicide and its risk factors.

Coleman wrote the current bill on staff training in 2011 and indicated that those in state government believe that the best way to attack the high suicide rate is “to have eyes – and more trained eyes.” A requirement that teachers and school staff learn about suicide prevention would provide these additional eyes and could hopefully help to reduce the number of young people who lose their lives before they even really begin.

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.

Lyrica & Other Epilepsy Drugs Caused Increase in Suicidal Tendencies

Anti-epilepsy drugs such as Lyrica work to prevent seizures in patients who suffer from epilepsy and are also used to treat certain health conditions. Unfortunately, many anti-epileptic drugs also have an unexpected side effect: they can increase suicidal thoughts and behaviors in patients. The consequences of this side effect can be very severe, especially if patients are not monitored carefully. Tragically, some patients taking these drugs can die by suicide as a result of the effects of the medication.  

Our Dallas suicide lawyers know that some anti-epilepsy drugs may as much as double the risk of suicidal thoughts and behavior in patients. Because of this side effect, physicians can potentially be held legally liable if someone taking an anti-epileptic dies by suicide. This is especially true if the deceased patient was taking the drug after the FDA mandating warning labels on the medications. The most obvious area of concern is the lack of sufficient monitoring of the patient prescribed Lyrica and other epilepsy medication.  Further physicians should warn the patient and family members, after approval by the patient, of the signs and symptoms of an increased risk for suicide.  Failure to warn and monitor appropriately is like throwing the dice with patient safety.

Suicide Risks of Antiepileptic Medications

The dangers associated with anti-epileptic medications have been apparent for a long time. Back in 2008, the New York Times wrote an article warning that patients prescribed certain anti-epileptic medications including Lyrica had double the risks of suicidal tendencies when compared with those not taking the medications. The risk of suicidal thoughts and behaviors among patients dosed with placebo medications was .22 percent and the risk associated with suicidal thoughts and behaviors among those dosed with the anti-epileptics rose to .43 percent.

This is a significant increase, especially considering that suicidal thinking can lead to suicidal actions and death by suicide. The increased risk is also a problem because it can begin as early as the first week that the medication therapy is administered and the risk can persist for the entire time that someone takes the medications.

Unfortunately, despite the increased risk, the drugs initially lacked a warning label and, at first, the F.D.A. did not believe that it was appropriate to require a warning.

The F.D.A. conducted placebo controlled studies on the use of 11 anti-epileptic drugs to assess the risk and studied the drug’s use, not just in treating epilepsy, but also in treating other health conditions and disorders. Based on its findings, the F.D.A. issued safety alerts on both December 16, 2008 and January 31, 2009.

On May 5, 2009, the FDA issued an update mandating that manufacturers of anti-epileptic drugs and anti-convulsant drugs needed to alter their product labels to include warnings about increased risks of suicidal thoughts and actions. Manufacturers would also be required to create a medication guide in order to better explain the risks.

The medications affected that the F.D.A. required a new warning for included:

  • Carbatrol
  • Celontin
  • Depakene
  • Depakote ER
  • Depakote sprinkles
  • Depakote tablets
  • Dilantin
  • Equetro
  • Felbatol
  • Gabitril
  • Keppra
  • Keppra XR
  • Klonopin
  • Lamictal
  • Lyrica
  • Mysoline
  • Neurontin
  • Peganone
  • Stavzor
  • Tegretol
  • Tegretol XR
  • Topamax
  • Tranxene
  • Tridione
  • Trileptal
  • Zarontin
  • Zonegran
  • Generic versions of these anti-epileptic medications.

Those who lost loved ones due to suicide or who experienced harm as a result of suicidal tendencies may have a legal claim against physicians or other prescribers of these medications due to the increased risk of suicide. Those who lost a loved one or who were injured prior to the label change may be able to make their case based on the drug company’s failure to warn the public about the high risk of suicide the medicine created while others can use strict liability rules to take action against the manufacturers of the defective and dangerous drugs.

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