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The importance of genetic screening in suicide prevention

Texas suicide lawyer

While the patterns aren’t exactly clear, some evidence shows that mental illness can be genetic. According to Dr. Douglas Gray, psychiatrist and researcher at the University of Utah School of Medicine, mental illnesses such as depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia can run in families. Gray studies death by suicide in order to gain better insight on risk factors and prevention methods.

In 2018, Gray published a study in the journal of Molecular Psychiatry. His research analyzed four specific gene variants that appear to increase the risk of suicide. The study found that four percent of genes in the genome — APH1B, AGBL2, SP110, and SUCLA2 — are responsible for 45-50 percent of the risk.

“We need to tell people who’ve had a suicide that their family’s at risk,” said Gray.

How genes play a role in suicide risks

Gray concluded that awareness and prevention can be increased by reviewing family histories and providing proper screenings. He also cited a 1980 study conducted at the University of Utah by Paul H. Wender, which compared adopted children and their adoptive parents to biological parents and their children.

“They looked at a group of children who were adopted at birth and then grew up and completed suicide,” Gray said. “It turned out that almost all of the risk of suicide was from the biological relatives and not the relatives that raised the child. So, your suicide risk doesn’t come from the parents that adopt you, it comes from the parents you never met.”

Gray and a team of geneticists decided to put Wender’s finding to the test by using statistical resources from the Utah Population Database. They examined 43 extended families that had shown high risk of suicide through several generations. When environmental factors were taken into account, gene variants that were found to be prevalent in these families were further examined for their frequencies through a sample of 1,300 suicides that occurred throughout Utah.

“We’re able to gather DNA of suicide completers for the past 20 years and actually look for genes that might increase the risk for suicide,” said Gray.

The results that Gray uncovered are very similar to the story of Jenny Gibson, who is a mother of two in Arizona. Her sister died by suicide in early 2008. Her father also died by suicide four years later. What this suggests is that mental and emotional trauma linked to the loss of a loved one can significantly increase the risk of suicide. Yet, Gibson, her father, and sister were never genetically screened.

“My dad was very resilient. He didn’t have a mental illness, he was handling the loss of his daughter like any other parent would – it comes with depression and heartbreak – and I didn’t see anything different,” said Gibson.

Are all with the same genetics at risk?

A 2013 study — that was conducted by Dr. Jordan Smoller of Massachusetts General Hospital — examined the link between genetics and mental illness. While research may have found a genetic link, the researchers in the study cautioned against placing too much emphasis on genes as a mental health predictor.

“Although statistically significant, each of these genetic associations individually can account for only a small amount of risk for mental illness,” said Smoller.

Gray compared this research to a plane crash involving more than one factor.

“When you look at when, sadly, an airplane crashes, there’s usually five or six different things that went wrong all in combination,” he said. “We’ll have a 17-year-old boy that dies of suicide and yeah, there was a romantic breakup, but if a romantic breakup was the cause of suicide, then none of us would be alive, right?”

How can this research be applied to suicide prevention?

Natalia Chimbo-Andrade is the director of community education and outreach for the behavioral health agency Community Bridges Inc. She is also a suicide attempt survivor and works with young individuals and families during crisis situations. She sees Gray’s research as an opportunity to better understand the risks and warning signs of suicide.

“It’s important that as we are having these open and honest conversations with members of our family about genetics and health risks, we also talk about the other contributing factors and, most importantly, we talk about the warning signs – the warning signs that we might see in other people, but also the warning signs that we see within ourselves,” said Chimbo-Andrade.

Lastly, Gray expresses the importance of screening not only for mental illness, but other health conditions that are known to be genetic.

“Know your family history. If you have a family history of colon cancer, please get your colonoscopy and get it regularly. If you have a strong family history of significant mood disorders and you’re starting to get depressed, the earlier you get help, the better,” said Gray.

Learn more about your legal options

Dealing with the loss of a loved one from suicide can be confusing for anyone. Attorney Skip Simpson understands the challenges facing families. A nationally-recognized expert in inpatient suicide law and other suicide-related legal matters, attorney Simpson has worked with many families nationwide after the death of a loved one by suicide. Attorney Simpson can explain the legal options available to your family. Learn more about how attorney Simpson may be able to assist your family.

Contact our law firm and schedule an appointment with a compassionate attorney.

Suicide Prevention Month: What is the impact public messages have on those at risk of suicide?

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Suicide Prevention Week will be observed September 9-12, 2020. In addition, September is Suicide Prevention Month. During this time, the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention (Action Alliance) will take the opportunity to educate the public on the importance of being there for those who need the support, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Action Alliance will be sending email blasts to its partners in the coming months in order to better equip them with the tools and resources to help spread this message. Moreover, the Action Alliance will raise awareness about the impact of public messages and how they can affect those who are at risk of suicide negatively or positively.

Effective, safe, strategic messaging

Research has found that certain public messages can exacerbate suicide risks among vulnerable people. Positive messages, on the other hand, can encourage at-risk individuals to seek the help they need and never give up.

The Action Alliance discussed its important messaging framework during a 2018 seminar dubbed Developing and Delivering Effective Suicide Prevention Messaging: We All Play A Role. These include:

  • Strategy: Upfront thinking and planning to develop successful and positive messages. The audience and goal of the message should be considered. The message should not only focus on awareness, but also action.
  • Safety: Potentially harmful messages should be avoided. Planners should screen content before sharing it, be consistent, be mindful about sensitive topics, avoid linking suicide risks to certain causes, focus on solutions rather than problems, use prevention-focused data, and avoid stigmatizing language.
  • Positive narrative: The positive aspects of suicide prevention should be highlighted. This can be done by discussing actions people can take to prevent suicide, provide examples on how resilience and prevention works, show that suicide prevention services are available and effective, and avoid negative stereotypes.
  • Guidelines: Planners should follow best practices guidelines after developing an effective, safe and strategic message. There is a wide variety of guidelines that can be found here.

About our law firm

The Law Offices of Skip Simpson is dedicated to helping families of those who died by suicide are who are at risk. We fight to hold negligent parties accountable, especially in inpatient and outpatient settings. Our law firm is based in Texas, but we serve families and communities across the United States. If you lost a loved one to death by suicide because of someone’s negligence or failure to provide the right care or support, contact our firm to discuss your legal options.

American Military Personnel At Risk For Suicide

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Experienced suicide attorney explains the risks, latest findings

A recent death by suicide of a decorated member of the Green Berets illustrates the risk of suicide many members of the United States military face every single day. That’s why it’s important for military family members and members of the public at large to be aware of the risks military personnel face, according to attorney Skip Simpson, who frequently represents families dealing with the loss of a loved one as a result of suicide.

Death by suicide of Army’s ‘Captain America’

U.S. Army Master Sgt. Andrew ‘Andy’ Christian Marckesano served six full tours with the 82nd Airborne Division and the Ranger regiment in Afghanistan, as well as six additional overseas combat tours. Nicknamed ‘Captain America,’ Marckesano became a Green Beret and received a Silver Star for his work.

Earlier this year, Marckesano, his wife and three children moved to Washington, D.C., where he recently began working at the Pentagon while still on active duty. Then on July 6, after having dinner with his former battalion leader, Marckesano returned home and died by suicide in front of his wife, according to Fox 5 DC News.

Marckesano is not the first member of his battalion that served in Afghanistan to die by suicide. Including Marckesano, 30 members of his battalion have taken their life since serving in Afghanistan’s Arghandab Valley in 2009, Fox 5 News reported.

Even so, Marckesano’s suicide sent shockwaves through his battalion. The battalion’s former Command Sgt. Major Bert Puckett sent a message soon after Marckesano’s death to fellow battalion members, urging them to contact him anytime to discuss any problems they may be experiencing. “Text me, I told you before my door is open… my phone is at hand…,” Fox 5 News reported.

Suicide statistics among military troops, family members

Death by suicide among combat veterans is nothing new. Each day, an estimated 20 combat veterans take their lives, according to Fox 5 News. The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) also released a detailed study last year examining suicide rates among active duty military personnel and family members.

The DOD study focused on statistics for 2018. That year, the study found that:

  • 541 service members (active and reserve) died by suicide
  • Among active military members, the suicide rate was 24.8 per 100,000.
  • Among reserve military members, the suicide rate was 22.9 per 100,000.
  • Among the National Guard, the suicide rate was 30.6 per 100,000.

In contrast, the age-adjusted suicide rate for the entire United States was 14.2 per 100,000, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. That same year, 48,344 nationwide died by suicide in the United States, making suicide the 10th leading cause of death in 2018.

Learn more about your legal options. Talk to attorney Skip Simpson today.

Dealing with the loss of a loved one involving suicide can be an overwhelming experience for anyone. Attorney Skip Simpson understands the challenges many families face. A nationally-recognized expert in inpatient suicide law and other suicide-related legal matters, attorney Simpson has helped many families nationwide understand their rights and legal options following the death of a loved one by suicide. Learn more about how attorney Simpson may be able to help you. Contact us and schedule an appointment with a caring and compassionate attorney.

When should suicide prevention begin?

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ranks death by suicide the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. Suicide was responsible for roughly 48,000 deaths in 2018. As we discussed in May 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic may cause the suicide rate to raise even higher.

One medical professional who works at a hospital in Walnut Creek, California has seen, firsthand, how bad the numbers of deaths by suicide and suicide attempts are.

“We’ve never seen numbers like this, in such a short period of time,” said Dr. Mike deBoisblanc at John Muir Medical Center. “I mean we’ve seen a year’s worth of suicide attempts in the last four weeks.”

During these times, and for years to come, we need to have a serious discussion about suicide intervention. We also need to find ways to reach out to those who may be emotionally and mentally impacted by the pandemic, as well as those suffering from mental health challenges.

It should start with eliminating the social stigma on mental health

One of the leading reasons those who are at risk of dying by suicide go under the radar is the social stigma surrounding mental health. Social stigma can prevent these individuals from getting the help they need. It also creates a barrier to understanding the struggles associated with mental health.

We need to send a clear message to society that it’s OK to open up about mental and emotional struggles and seek help. Eliminating this social stigma starts in the community. It starts with open talks about mental health, as well as educating yourself and others.

Interventions in healthcare settings

A recent study published in JAMA Psychiatry found that brief encounters with healthcare professionals can reduce the risk of suicide attempts for up to a year for many individuals.

The study examined more than 4,000 medical patients who were at risk of dying by suicide. After encounters with medical professionals, they were more likely to seek further help and ongoing mental health care.

Among all healthcare settings, emergency rooms had protocols to help patients deal with mental and emotional distress. The study found that urgent care clinics, emergency rooms, jails and shelters were lacking, however. In order to better serve those who suffer from mental health issues, the study suggested the following ways to improve intervention:

  • Hiring qualified mental health professionals who are trained in suicide prevention and assessing suicide risks. They should also understand the irreversible brain damage caused by minutes of strangulation.
  • Providing patient follow-ups by phone or mail. As many as 70 percent of patients who are at risk of suicide may never seek ongoing therapy after being discharged from a healthcare facility. Prompt and periodic follow ups can help prevent future suicide attempts or hospital re-admissions.
  • Providing coping strategies for patients who are most at risk.
  • Encouraging additional ongoing mental health treatment to patients. Healthcare providers should be trained in evidence-based mental health treatment such as cognitive behavior therapy, reduction of lethal means, coping strategies for dealing with certain stressors.

Intervention in schools

Death by suicide is a leading cause of death among adolescents, according to the CDC. Many of these deaths can be prevented when intervention methods are established as early as elementary school.

While intervention methods for elementary school kids may not address suicide directly, they can help children recognize and deal with certain emotions. In addition, being silent about reporting suicidal thinking is wrong. Reporting is right.

study that was published in the journal Child Psychiatry & Human Development examined 21 children, ages 6-9. The mothers were asked to report any suicide attempts or ideations that took place within the last month or at any time within each child’s life. They were also asked to report their children’s emotion regulation skills.

The study was intended to give researchers some insight on how emotion regulation can help prevent suicide risks in children. More research will be needed on a larger group of kids.

Contact an informed suicide lawyer if you have lost a loved one

With proper intervention methods put in place, we hope to see the staggering rate of deaths by suicide drop. It’s up to communities, healthcare facilities and schools to do their part to make that happen.

If you lost a loved one to death by suicide because there was no attempt at intervention in any of these settings, don’t hesitate to reach out to a renowned suicide lawyer at The Law Offices of Skip Simpson. We can investigate the root cause of your loved one’s death, identify negligent parties and help you and your family seek justice.

To schedule your free case evaluation, contact us online or call us at (214) 618-8222. We serve clients across the United States.

Suicide rates may increase amid the COVID-19 pandemic

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Over the last two decades, the United States has seen an increase in deaths by suicide. Data from the American Association of Suicidology shows that in 2018 (the latest data), approximately 48,344 people in the U.S. died by suicide. This accounted for 132.4 deaths by suicide per day.

With the suicide rate at an all-time high, the number of deaths by suicide could increase even more due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. In order to prevent the spread of the virus, states across the U.S. have issued stay-at-home orders and urged people to adhere to social distancing rules.

While these measures may be effective at reducing the spread of COVID-19, they have an impact on mental health. At this time, hospitals and medical professionals should not only provide medical care to those who may be infected with COVID-19, but they should also provide support for those who have been psychologically and emotionally affected by this pandemic.

The role social distancing plays

The impact of the statewide shutdowns and social distancing rules on mental health should be gaining more scrutiny than it currently is.

Social connections are an absolute necessity for mental health. People who experience suicide ideation may become increasingly withdrawn when a suicide risk arises.

Many people rely on the social structure of our society (social gatherings, religious services, and frequent connections with friends and loved ones) to maintain psychological and emotional health.

According to a 2016 study published in the JAMA Network, weekly religious service attendance was linked to a 5-fold reduction in suicide from 1996-2010.

The term “social distancing” gives people the impression that they can’t stay connected. While the media and lawmakers push this term to encourage safety, it’s having an adverse effect on people’s mental health. Until we get through this pandemic, we should focus more on physical distancing while maintaining healthy social connections.

Job loss and economic stress

As a result of the state shutdowns and social distancing rules, many Americans have been temporarily placed out of work. Some have been able to obtain unemployment benefits, but many others are still waiting for financial relief.

The COVID-19 pandemic has created a lot of economic uncertainty. Not only are millions of people out of work, we’re still not sure if some jobs will ever return. Furthermore, we’re not sure if we will see another wave of shutdowns in the coming fall and winter.

The economy has a significant impact on mental health. Several studies have found a link between economic recessions and increased rates of death by suicide, according to the World Journal of Psychiatry.

Barriers to mental health treatment

Our medical system has made COVID-19 patients the number one priority. Those whose mental health is impacted by the pandemic may not be able to receive adequate treatment, especially if they don’t have an appointment scheduled. As a result, we’ve become focused on saving some lives while ignoring others.

If our medical system is serious about saving lives, then they need to make mental health a priority during this time. The COVID-19 pandemic isn’t only affecting people who suffer from mental health issues. It’s effecting everyone. That means everyone should have access to mental health support, either at a physical location or remotely.

Tele-mental health services may help many people get through this pandemic; this may be a silver lining to the delivery of mental health services. Those who are at risk of death by suicide need prompt services. When hospitals and other medical facilities fail to provide treatment to someone who is at risk of suicide, they should be held accountable.

Tele-mental health can be quicker and timely help without the need of driving, finding a place to park and other anxiety producing challenges. Health providers may fear litigation for not providing in-person care; they shouldn’t. What they should do is document why they are selecting Tele-Mental health care instead of person to person.

If you or a loved one was denied suicide prevention treatment which led to an attempted suicide, it’s critical that you discuss this matter with an experienced suicide lawyer. At the Law Offices of Skip Simpson, we agree that providing medical treatment to those suffering from COVID-19 is important, but medical professionals also have an obligation to treat those who are at risks of death by suicide.

Our attorneys are dedicated to investigating suicide cases and helping victims and families seek justice. To find out how we can help you, contact our law office online or call us at (214) 618-8222. We offer free and confidential case evaluations.

What will be the COVID-19 shutdown’s impact on the mental health of college students?

Texas suicide lawyer

The stress, anxiety, and depression brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic has taken a toll on many people’s mental health. Even people who don’t normally experience mental health issues may have been affected during these difficult times.

People who suffer from mental health issues have been especially affected by this pandemic. Much of the United States hasn’t yet returned to life-as-usual, leaving many resources limited or inaccessible. Furthermore, many people have been forced to refrain from activities they enjoy, while they can only travel for essential purposes.

Mental health of college students disproportionately impacted

According to an article in Psychiatric Times, college students are disproportionately affected by stress, anxiety, depression, suicide ideation and self-harm. Mental health issues among college students are already on the rise, yet are further aggravated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Death by suicide is the second most common cause of death among this population.

Not only do mental health issues affect the immune system and increase the risk of infection, they can also lead to delays in treatment.

In March 2020, many colleges and universities extended spring break to allow faculty more time to devise an appropriate response to the pandemic. Many students were ordered to move out of their dorms and return home. For some, the spring semester was ended early. Others were allowed to continue taking classes remotely. Several important events were also canceled.

This change has placed a great deal of stress on college students for several reasons, including:

  • Limited financial resources
  • Limited housing options for international students
  • Lack of available employment to make ends meet
  • Food insecurity
  • Quarantine and social isolation
  • Cancelled graduations and other critical ceremonies

The social factor

According to another Psychiatric Times article, loneliness and social isolation can have a profound impact on mental health.

Many college students also must avoid attending social outings. Humans are social by nature. Younger people especially desire social connections, which haves been curbed by the social distancing procedures put in place. At best, younger people can only communicate digitally or from a distance of 6-13 feet.

Loneliness and social isolation can affect mental health in the following ways:

  • Depression
  • Increased stress
  • Decreased memory
  • Changes in the brain
  • Increased risk of drug or alcohol abuse

Can telehealth methods help?

These are uncertain times for many college students. Class will not be in session for the remainder of this semester. Furthermore, there is no guarantee that students will return to class in September.

This can leave college students uncertain about their careers, futures, and the possibility of life returning to normal. That’s why it’s critical that colleges and universities offer mental health resources to students, even if done remotely.

John Hopkins University rolled out telehealth technology for students prior to the pandemic. The purpose of this technology was to provide students with remote cognitive behavioral therapy.

Telehealth is one method that can help college students address their mental health and help them cope with the current situation. Several states have amended existing provisions in order to remove barriers to telehealth access, according to mHealth Intelligence.

It is critical that colleges and medical professionals address mental health

Until life returns to normal, mental health concerns will continue to be a growing problem. Not only is it critical that appropriate resources are made available to students, but colleges and universities should also ensure that students are made aware of the resources available to them.

If you lost a loved one to death by suicide, it’s important that you reach out to an experienced suicide lawyer. The Law Offices of Skip Simpson is dedicated to helping families find answers and justice. We investigate deaths by suicide and fights to hold negligent parties accountable when they fail to take appropriate action.

To schedule your free and confidential case evaluation, contact us online or call (214) 618-8222. We serve clients across the United States.

Can we prevent deaths by suicide among first responders?

Texas suicide lawyer

First responders — police, firefighters, and EMS — risk their lives each day and witness the tragedies and horrors that occur across America.

These often include:

  • Violent altercations
  • Near-death experiences
  • Deaths of colleagues
  • Deaths of people affected by crime, traffic collisions, work accidents, and other disasters
  • The impact of heinous crimes

A link between first responders, PTSD

We applaud first responders for their heroic actions, but they are still human, like the rest of us. Due to the nature of their jobs, they often experienced post-traumatic-stress-disorder (PTSD), a mental health condition that is often triggered by a traumatic event. Symptoms of PTSD, include:

  • Behavioral: People with PTSD may exhibit irritability, hostility, anger, fear, self-destructive behavior, or social isolation.
  • Psychological: PTSD may result in flashbacks, spurts of anxiety, re-occurring unwanted thoughts, or mistrust of others.
  • Mood-related: PTSD can cause depression, guilt, loneliness, and loss of interest in pleasurable activities.
  • Sleep disturbances: People with PTSD may experience frequent nightmares or insomnia.

What is the rate of death by suicide among first responders?

A study conducted by The Ruderman Family Foundation (RFF) found that more first responders die by suicide each year than in the line of duty. Here are 2017 figures cited by the RFF:

  • 103 firefighters died by suicide, 93 died in the line of duty
  • 140 police officers died by suicide, 129 died in the line of duty

According to the study, police officers witness an average of 188 “critical incidents” throughout the course of their careers.

Police officers and firefighters are also five times more likely to experience PTSD than civilians. The death by suicide rate among police officers and firefighters, in comparison to civilians, is:

  • 18 out of every 100,000 firefighters
  • 17 out of every 100,000 police officers
  • 13 out of every 100,000 civilians

Addressing the social stigma

There is a barrier that exists between first responders and access to mental health care — the social stigma surrounding the expectations of bravery and toughness. The general public is also vastly unaware of this issue faced by first responders.

Furthermore, there seems to be an underreporting of deaths by suicide among first responders. For example, the Firefighter Behavioral Health Alliance (FBHA) estimates that only 40 percent of deaths by suicide among firefighters are reported. That means that the real numbers could be much higher.

According to the RFF, there are roughly 18,000 law enforcement agencies across the United States, yet only an estimated 3-5 percent of them have suicide prevention training programs.

“We need to end the silence that surrounds the issue of first responder mental health. We should celebrate the lives of those lost to suicide – at national monuments such as the National Law Enforcement Memorial, in the media, and within police and fire departments around the country,” said RFF president Jay Ruderman. “Also, departments should encourage or require first responders to access mental health services annually. This will enable our heroes to identify issues early, and get the help that they need. It will save lives.”

Representing first responder families

It’s critical that first responders break down the barriers of social stigma and get the help that they need. Death by suicide among first responders is preventable, but it also requires all hands on deck.

Fire stations and law enforcement agencies, for example, should offer the support and resources need to address the mental health issues first responders face.

If you have lost a loved one due to death by suicide, an experienced and compassionate suicide lawyer can help you pursue answers and justice.

Contact the Law Offices of Skip Simpson or call 214-618-8222 to explore your legal options. We offer free case evaluations and will carefully assess your case.

Why technology can’t replace real suicide intervention

Texas suicide lawyer

According to the World Health Organization, there were an estimated 800,000 deaths by suicide globally and 16 million suicide attempts in 2016. The mortality rate due to suicide has decreased by more than 30 percent over the last three decades, yet it still remains one of the leading causes of preventable death.

What’s worse, about 40 percent of people who have suicidal thoughts never seek professional help, but rather opt to handle it alone. Other people who need the help don’t have access to healthcare. This has led to an uptick in the use of digital intervention and treatment. This raises the question: can technology replace real professional help?

Flaws in suicide prevention apps

In today’s world, technology allows us to do a lot in just the palms of our hands. Beyond making phone calls and sending texts, the apps we download on our phones become an integral part of our daily lives. There are about 318,000 health-related apps available through the Apple App Store and Google Play — more than 10,000 of them are mental health apps.

Relying on certain apps can be dangerous, however. That’s because the majority of them haven’t been evaluated in clinical trials or approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The FDA has the authority to regulate health-related apps for quality and safety. Even those that have been approved by the FDA are only designed to complement real therapy, not replace it entirely.

According to a 2019 analysis in BMC Medicine, some apps are designed to help people cope with depression and prevent deaths by suicide. Some people who suffer from suicidal thoughts may feel more comfortable seeking help online, rather than speaking to someone face to face. Some of these apps provide incorrect and nonfunctional contact information to suicide crisis intervention lines, however. In addition, not one of these apps provided contact information with real physicians or counselors.

The study focused on apps that targeted people who suffered from depression or were at high risk of death by suicide. This included:

  • 20 depression management apps
  • 46 suicide prevention apps — 19 of which were created or commissioned by a government organization or university
  • 3 apps providing both depression management and suicide prevention

The study aimed to do two things:

  • Analyze evidence-based clinical guidelines on suicide prevention strategies, as well as the type and quality of advice given when a user is at risk of suicide
  • Use simulated patient scenarios to measure the response of chatbot apps when a user is at risk of suicide

Researchers in the study used the 42matter.com platform in January 2019 to search Apple’s App Store and Google Play. The search terms used in the database included “depression, “depressive,” “depress,” “mood disorders,” “suicide,” and “self-harm.”

These apps were also designed to:

  • Track the mood of users
  • Assess suicide risks
  • Provide advice for users at risk of attempting suicide
  • Provide “call to action” options
  • Provide links to activate a phone call to a crisis intervention line
  • Provide suicide prevention education

Out of all 69 apps analyzed in the study only five of them offered a comprehensive approach to suicide prevention. Six of the apps provided inaccurate crisis intervention hotline phone numbers.

What suicide prevention requires

High quality and clinically tested apps should not be ruled out entirely. They can be helpful on a day-to-day basis for those who seek ways to cope with depression or those who have previously had suicidal thoughts. Suicide prevention requires the help of a medical professional or therapist, however.

Many people may use digital apps rather than speak to someone face to face because of the social stigma surrounding mental health in our culture. That stigma needs to be broken.

The Law Offices of Skip Simpson urges people experiencing suicidal thoughts to get medical attention or help immediately. If you have identified any signs of suicide risk in a loved one, don’t hesitate to intervene and urge them to get help.

If you have lost a loved one to death by suicide, you may have legal options available to you. Contact us online to schedule your free case evaluation, or simply call us at (214) 618-8222.

Addressing the construction industry’s high rate of suicide

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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), construction and mining have the highest rates of death by suicide compared to all other industries. For working adults across all industries, the rate of death by suicide has increased by 34 percent from 2012-2015.

A construction worker’s death by suicide five years ago spurred change in a Salt Lake City construction company, according to NPR. On his last day attending work, he reportedly gave away his personal hand tools. His co-workers later realized that his actions were oddly generous. When they got around to check on him, it was too late.

Giving away personal possessions is one of the leading signs that a person is considering suicide. Many people may see it as a generous act rather than a red flag. Others may suspect that something isn’t right and ask questions. A suicidal person with no interest in seeking help may tell concerned friends, family, and co-workers that he or she doesn’t need the personal possessions anymore.

“It’s a huge sign, but we didn’t know that then,” said construction superintendent Michelle Brown. “We know it now.”

Mental health: An on-the-job priority

The 1,500 employees who worked for RK were shaken up by the loss of their colleague. The man’s death marked the third co-worker suicide that Brown has endured over 31 years of working in construction.

RK has since established a model for suicide prevention in the construction industry, involving 24-hour access to counseling services, lenient leave policies, manager crisis training, and other methods.

“If somebody didn’t show up in the past, we’d be like, ‘You’ve got a job to do — get in here,’ ” said RK co-owner Jon Kinning. “We’ve just changed our tone and our culture. I talk about mental health nearly every time I have a group of employees.”

RK addresses mental health a few times each week through a method called toolbox talks. This involves staff announcements and stretching. Some workers have objected to bringing up mental health. They claim that it brings back unwanted memories.

“It’s more important for the greater good to talk about mental health issues,” said Kinning.

About 15 suicide deaths were prevented within the company since 2014, as workers utilized the therapy and other benefits afforded to them. Other construction companies are now implementing the same approach modeled by RK.

The challenges of suicide prevention in the construction industry

While this approach to suicide prevention may save lives in the construction industry, it’s not a one-size-fits-all. Some challenges may be posed by substance abuse, particularly opioids prescribed to injured workers. In addition, many construction workers are military veterans, some of whom suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.

Brown, who spent four years in the Air Force, noticed some emotional changes in a co-worker (who was also a vet). He would be unresponsive in some cases, and extremely agitated in others. After the co-worker didn’t show up for work or call in sick one day, she suspected that he may be suicidal. After speaking to him on the phone, Brown drove to his house. She found him drunk with a firearm in his hand.

She immediately soothed him with the words, “You’re loved. You’re needed.” She then contacted a therapist and set him up on medical leave. Brown and the man both remain friends to this day, despite him leaving the company.

“It took me back to a time in my life where, if somebody hadn’t reached out to me, then there’s a possibility I wouldn’t be here,” said Brown. “I had no desire to be on this earth anymore. I didn’t think it was worth it. Why bother? And somebody took the time to notice my behavior and reach out to me.”

RK supervisor Nate Lewis also recalls struggling with suicidal thoughts, anxiety, and depression, which was only worsened by being overworked. He was able to overcome this struggle by seeking help. He now urges his co-workers to do the same.

During one morning toolbox talk, an employee named Cal came forward and admitted to having a suicidal past.

“I dealt with maybe six years of attempting to take my life,” he told the group. “The last time that happened was last year in July.”

Cal cites not being completely honest with his therapist, being openly gay, and not feeling welcome in the construction industry as his primary struggles. After coming forward and getting help, he said the last year of his life was the happiest he has experienced as an adult.

There should never be any shame in seeking help. The social stigma surrounding mental health has put far too many lives at stake. That’s why the suicide attorneys and counselors at The Law Offices of Skip Simpson applaud the efforts taken by RK and hope to see a trend of suicide prevention in the workplace.

Our renowned and compassionate legal team represents families of people who have lost their lives to suicide. If you have lost a loved one, we urge you to reach out to us to discuss your legal options. You can contact us online or call us at (214) 618-8222.

What is filicide and how can it be prevented?

Texas suicide lawyer

A Christmas Day tragedy in Boston has, once again, shed light on the alarming rate of suicides occurring across the United States, according to NBC News.

After 1 p.m. on Christmas Day, police responded to the incident involving a mother who had taken her own life and the lives to her two young children.

The incident that occurred in Boston was more than just a death by suicide. It was a filicide, which often occurs as a form of domestic violence.

Filicide is the deliberate act of a parent killing their own child. Filicide is relatively common, with estimates that it comprises 4 percent to 20 percent of all homicides in various populations.

What drives filicides among mothers?

There are five motive categories: altruistic, acutely psychotic, unwanted child, accidental, and spouse revenge.

Altruistic motive is the most important factor that distinguishes filicide from other homicides. Two subgroups are often seen among these murders committed “out of love.” These parents claimed that they couldn’t abandon their children when they killed attempted to kill themselves.  These parents killed to relieve the child’s suffering, which may have been real or imagined to the parent.

After the “altruistic” and “acutely psychotic” filicide, there is often immediate relief of tension. However, upon realization of the gravity of their actions, they may attempt suicide even if the suicide was not planned.

Psychiatrists and mental health clinicians should be alert to the filicidal potential of all depressed parents, particularly mothers considering suicide. If the suicidal thinking can be properly addressed then the deaths of children can be prevented too.

Is postpartum depression a factor in filicides

Up to 80 percent of mothers experience postpartum depression within the first three months of giving birth — brought on by physical changes, hormonal changes, and stress. In some mothers, postpartum depression can last for years.

Symptoms of postpartum depression often include:

  • Anxiety, worry, sadness
  • Fears of not being able to care for children
  • Mood changes and increase in crying
  • Difficulty with sleep
  • Difficulty with eating and self-care
  • Social isolation
  • Thoughts of harming herself or her children

While postpartum depression is not a leading cause of filicides, it can be a contributing factor in some cases.

How medical professionals can address maternal filicide and suicide

When a young mother is suicidal, a direct question about the fate of her children may be helpful in assessing the inseparability of the parent-child bond.

These tragic deaths can be prevented but clinicians must be fully trained, competent, and not rushed in assessments. Three-quarters of the patients showed psychiatric symptoms prior to their filicide. Some mothers talk openly of suicide and even expressed concern about the future of their children.

It is discouraging that a full 40 percent of killing parents are seen by a psychiatrist or other physician shortly before their act of killing their child.

Treatments for postpartum and other mental health issues often experienced by mothers include:

  • Therapy: Seeing an individual therapist or marriage counselor can help new mothers adjust to the changes of parenthood. In addition, therapy is a great way to learn coping methods and receive emotional support.
  • Antidepressants: Medication should be closely monitored and properly administered. Antidepressants may be helpful for temporary use after a mother gives birth.
  • Hormone therapy: Estrogen replacement therapy may be helpful when used in conjunction with antidepressants.

The Law Offices of Skip Simpson represents those who have survived suicide attempts and families of those who have died by suicide. If you notice any signs of possible suicide risk in a relative, friend, or co-worker, we urge you to speak up. Doing so could save a life.

If you have lost a loved one due to death by suicide, you may be eligible to take legal action. To find out how nationally renowned suicide lawyer Skip Simpson can help you and your family, contact us online or call us at 214-618-8222.