Archive for December, 2014

Technology in the Fight to Prevent Death by Suicide

A charity called Samaritans released an app at the end of October that was designed to help prevent death by suicide. The app included a specially designed algorithm that was intended to identify key words and phrases that might suggest someone was having thoughts of suicide. People who signed up for the app would be notified if someone that they were following was posting troubling phrases on Twitter that could suggest a risk of suicide.

The app has since been pulled from the market because of concerns about privacy and worries that it might make things worse for those who are experiencing mental health issues. While this particular app may not have been the best approach to take to helping to prevent suicide, it does raise questions about how technology could be used to help people who are having a hard time.

Identifying suicidal risk factors can be a difficult thing to do without some basic training. I recommend visiting the QPR Institute online. QPR (Question, Persuade, and Refer) Gatekeeper Training for Suicide is a brief educational program designed to teach “gatekeepers”–those who are strategically positioned to recognize and refer someone at risk of suicide (e.g., parents, friends, neighbors, teachers, coaches, caseworkers, police officers)–the warning signs of a suicide crisis and how to respond by following three steps:

Trained mental health professionals and medical care providers should be in the best position to provide appropriate assistance. Unfortunately, a suicide attorney knows that this does not always work and medical professionals sometimes fail to do their job. “At times they simply don’t know what they don’t know because their professional training failed them” says Skip Simpson. Professional organizations like the American Association of Suicidology are busy trying to fix the poor clinician training in the United States. Another hard charging organization, the Suicide Prevention Resource Center (SPRC), is trying to get medical schools and graduate programs to focus on properly training their students in suicide prevention. The SPRC is moving mountains in suicide prevention.

QPR training will get folks at suicide risk to the proper resource; SPRC is attempting to make sure those resources know what they are doing and then do it properly. If clinicians fail to apply the proper standard of care, then they face a review by Skip Simpson and his colleagues across the United States.

Technological Tools in the Fight to Prevent Death by Suicide

The Samaritan app analyzed people’s Twitter accounts to find key phrases that could potentially suggest a person was considering death by suicide. Some of the phrases that the app looked for included things like “help me,” “need someone to talk to,” “hate myself,” “depressed,” and “tired of being alone.”

When these phrases were identified, followers of the person who was making the tweets would be alerted via email. Only people who had signed up for the service would get the email alerts. The app also monitored only Tweets that were publicly available and sent them only to individuals who were already following the tweeting person.

There were concerns, however, that stalkers and bullies could potentially sign up for the service. This would give them the opportunity to use the information to increase their abusive behavior at a time when their victims were especially vulnerable. Another possible issue is that the app could result in false positives, causing needless concern and making people less likely to reach out when they are feeling down.

The app has been removed from the market in response to the concerns. However, there are other online tools that are still used to help in the fight against suicide. Good Therapy, for example, has provided a list of the top 10 websites on the Internet that can help people who are having thoughts of suicide or who want to help others who are struggling. Lifeline Chat also makes it possible for people to reach out and talk to someone online if they are depressed or despairing and having thoughts of suicide.

So, while technology might continue to assist in the fight, nothing can replace human contact, genuine concern, and the help of medical professionals trained to deal with victims struggling with thoughts of suicide. Throughout the holidays, we can each do our part to reach out and help those struggling to cope through what for many is the most difficult time of the year.

A suicide attorney at the Law Offices of Skip Simpson can help. Call (214) 618-8222 or visit http://www.skipsimpson.com to schedule a free case consultation.

Researchers Find ‘Talk Therapy’ May Reduce Deaths By Suicide

Nearly  everyone has heard about the importance of talking about your problems and not keeping feelings bottled up. A new study in Lancet Psychiatry finds that talking to others – specifically, therapists – can actually save lives. People who have attempted suicide can benefit from “talk therapy,” another name for psychotherapy. Repeat suicide attempts and deaths by suicide were about 25 percent lower among a group of Danish people who underwent voluntary short-term psychosocial counseling after a suicide attempt, according to the study.

Researchers from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health examined Danish health data from about 65,000 people who attempted suicide between Jan. 1, 1992, and Dec. 31, 2010. They looked at 5,678 people from that group who received sessions of talk therapy at one of Denmark’s eight suicide prevention clinics. Then they compared their outcomes over time with more than 17,000 other people who attempted suicide and who looked similar on other factors but had not gone for treatment afterward. Analyzing the data after a 20-year follow-up, researchers found the people who received talk therapy  were less likely to attempt suicide than people who did not receive the therapy.  Those who received psychotherapy repeated acts of self-harm less frequently and had a lower risk of death by suicide (or any cause) than those in the study who did not receive the therapy.

First-Of-Its-Kind Study Supports Benefits of Psychotherapy in Suicide Prevention

Suicide attorneys understand that it’s no surprise that counseling people with suicidal thoughts will help save lives.  But up until now, there has not been a lot of research to support whether a specific treatment is working. It’s a difficult subject to analyze, according to the study’s authors, because it’s not ethical to conduct a randomized study where some people get suicide prevention therapy while others don’t. In Denmark, the suicide prevention clinics were rolled out slowly and participation in the study was voluntary. Researchers say the large-scale study is the first of its kind to offer evidence that talk therapy can decrease the number of deaths by suicide.

Unfortunately, we know that many licensed mental health professionals in the United States lack proper training to help people who are at risk. They sometimes fail to offer the talk therapy – or other types of treatment – that can save lives. That’s why families whose loved ones died by suicide need the help of experienced attorneys who know what’s required to hold mental health providers accountable.

The new study was detailed in many publications, including a report in Time on Nov. 24, 2014. Quoting researchers, Time stated: “People who present with deliberate self-harm constitute a high-risk group for later suicidal behavior and fatal outcomes, so preventive efforts are important; yet, implemented specialized support after self-harm is rare.”

In  Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health news release about the findings, Annette Erlangsen, DPH, an adjunct associate professor in the Department of Mental Health, stated: “We know that people who have attempted suicide are a high-risk population and that we need to help them. However, we did not know what would be effective in terms of treatment. Now we have evidence that psychosocial treatment – which provides support, not medication – is able to prevent suicide in a group at high risk of dying by suicide.”

According to the news release, researchers suggest broadly implementing therapy programs for people who have attempted suicide in the past.

We have no doubt that there’s room for improvement when it comes to helping people who have made attempts at suicide or who have suicidal thoughts. We hope this new study will lead to some meaningful changes.

A suicide attorney at the Law Offices of Skip Simpson can help. Call (214) 618-8222 or visit http://www.skipsimpson.com to schedule a free case consultation.