Archive for September, 2015

New Laws Aim to Prevent Suicide Among College Students

In 2014, a college student died by suicide following his first year at the University of Texas at Austin. Following his death, his parents began to advocate for legislation that would increase awareness of mental health resources on college campuses. College students are particularly vulnerable to the risk of suicidal ideation because they are often facing tremendous academic pressure and are away from family and support systems for the first time.

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While colleges have counselors available, students may be unaware of the mental health services that can be provided to them. Counselors may also fail to notice signs of suicidal ideation among their patients, which can result in accusations of clinician malpractice. Protecting young people during a vulnerable time in their life is of the utmost importance and two new laws have passed that could make a substantial difference in saving lives.

A closer look at Texas college suicide rates

In Texas, suicide is the second leading cause of death for college-aged kids. Around a third of all college students in Texas are reportedly dealing with depression.

Senate Bill 1624 was championed by the parents of the University of Texas at Austin student who died by suicide. The Bill was signed into law and took effect recently. The law requires universities to provide students with information on suicide prevention services and mental health services during their orientation period.

The bill mandates the information be provided to students during either a live presentation or a video. The information may not be provided in paper form. The purpose of requiring a video is to ensure students actually receive the information. Dallas News reports the director of the Counseling and Mental Health Center at UT-Austin is making a video that schools statewide can use in order to fulfill the new legal requirement.

Senate Bill 1624 was one of two laws that recently took effect to try to reduce the risk of death by suicide among college students. The other law requires local universities create a web page providing information to students about how to contact the local health authority in the university community.

The purpose of the new laws is to make it easier for students to access information they need and to reach out for help.  The lawmaker who authored the legislation stated: “College students in particular are at an age or an environment [where it’s] even more difficult for them, to seek out help.”  Now, by providing the information at orientation and on an easy-to-access website, hopefully more students will reach out.

The strong push should be “zero suicide.” This concept is realistic—several organizations have drastically reduced suicides and others have reached the goal of zero.  If zero is not the right number, what is?

Once students do seek mental health services, it is up to counselors to recognize signs of suicidal ideation and to take action to help vulnerable students. The counselor may be the only source of support a student who is far from home has, and the counselor must live up to the professional obligation he has to provide appropriate care and take action to help stop an attempted suicide or a suicide.

 

 

 

Back to School Season Means Students at Greater Risk of Death By Suicide

A new school year is starting and kids will soon be heading back to college campuses nationwide. For many of these students, the new school year is not something to look forward to this fall. Instead, returning to college mean means a return to the tremendous pressures to be perfect in a competitive college setting. High expectations and intense stress to succeed often contribute to high rates of campus depression and suicidal thoughts among young people. new-college-lane-1495710

New York Times reported the rate of death by suicide among 15 to 24 year olds has steadily increased since 2007. And college students may be among the most vulnerable segment of society. A recent survey of college counseling centers found that more than half of clients seeking counseling have “severe psychological problems.” College students, who may have limited parental supervision and distant support networks while away at school, face an especially significant risk. College counselors may be the only ones who can determine when a student is considering death by suicide and the only ones available to take action to help the student. That’s why counselors and academic institutions may be held accountable when these warning signs are missed.

Warning signs are missed by clinicians because of lack of training on taking a systematic suicide assessment.  With training a clinician has no excuse for deciding not to take the time to properly assess and document the assessment.  If the student is at risk for suicide then appropriate interventions need to be taken to protect the patient.

College Students and Risks of Death by Suicide

In 2007, there were 9.6 deaths by suicide per 100,000 individuals age 15 to 24. In 2013, that figure had risen to 11.1 suicides per 100,000 individuals within the same demographic group. Among college students seeking counseling, chances a student would be diagnosed with a severe mental condition increased 13 percent over a period of just two years. Anxiety and depression are the two most common mental health diagnoses among college students.

Female students may be especially at risk of suffering from anxiety and depression because reports have shown many feel a pressure to be effortlessly and relentlessly perfect. This means not only excelling academically and in social endeavors, but also putting forth a persona of being happy and self-assured all the time.

Women afraid to fail may hide mental issues they are facing until it is too late for friends and family to help them. College counselors need to be trained to identify when a student is masking deep-seated depression or anxiety so they can provide the mental health assistance students need when coping with the very real pressures they face.

The Times notes there has been several high profile suicides among both college and high school students in recent years attributed to the culture of high expectations and overachievement. In just 13-months, six students from University of Pennsylvania died by suicide. Tulane University lost four students to death by suicide in a single academic year, and there were three deaths by suicide at Appalachian State. From 2009 to 2010, there were also six students at Cornell University who died by suicide. Most of these students appeared to have everything going for them, and were active in campus groups. However, many were likely responding to pressures to act self-assured and mask doubts they had about their futures.

As college students head back to campus this year, schools need to be aware of the toll of the pressure to be perfect can have on students. That’s why colleges and universities need to make sure students receive the support they need to deal with mental health issues before it’s too late.

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.

A Closer Look at National Suicide Prevention Week

More than one million people attempted suicide in the United States in 2013, with total of 41,149 fatal outcomes reported. As the 10th ranking cause of death in the United States, statistics reveal that an average of 113 people died by suicide every day – or roughly one person every 12.8 minutes.

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Sponsored by the American Association of Suicidology, the 41st annual National Suicide Prevention Week is underway from September 7-13, 2015 and aims to bring a simple message to schools, colleges, hospitals, mental health centers and treatment facilities nationwide: suicide prevention is everyone’s business.

As any mental health malpractice attorney knows, it is critical not only to ensure that those with suicidal ideations and behaviors receive the help they need, but for healthcare professionals of all types to receive the training necessary to identify at-risk patients at schools, colleges, hospitals and mental health centers across the United States.

What is National Suicide Week?

In conjunction with World Suicide Prevention Day on September 10, National Suicide Prevention Week is designed to raise awareness for some of the most common factors for suicide – such as mental illness, substance abuse, previous suicide attempts and access to lethal means – and how to engage individuals and organizations alike to the cause of suicide awareness and prevention.

As part of the campaign, organizations are encouraged to recognize suicide as a significant public health problem. States are encouraged to develop accessible behavioral health service programs, use multiple suicide prevention efforts appropriate for different populations and communities and encourage educational initiatives in schools and colleges.

In addition, National Suicide Prevention Week also encourages high schools, colleges and universities to create activities to educate students about the prevalence of suicide, engage students in prevention activities and promote public awareness about the importance of suicide prevention.

By drawing attention to the critical topic of suicide prevention, the campaign also aims to reduce the negative social stigma surrounding the topic of suicide and encourage the assistance and support of people who have faced suicidal thoughts or attempted suicide. As of 2011, the American Association of Suicidology estimated more than 4.6 million survivors of attempted suicide in the United States alone.

As a means of raising awareness for the issue of suicide prevention, National Suicide Prevention Week observance has a specific theme each year. Past themes have included “Suicide Prevention Across the Life Span” in 2007, “Families, Community Systems and Suicide” in 2010 and “Changing the Legacy of Suicide” in 2011.

A Dallas, TX 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.