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Study Finds Link Between Nighttime Wakefulness and Suicide

Clock on bedside table near blurred man on bed at night.

Researchers say being up late at night may be linked to dangerous behavior

It’s well-known that better sleep has numerous health benefits, while disrupted sleep can cause or exacerbate many medical issues. However, many people may not be aware of the link between disturbed sleep and suicide.

But that link is quite strong, according to researchers at the University of Arizona College of Medicine – Tucson, who studied the times at which suicides and homicides occur. The result: while the most overall suicides happen in the middle of the day, when adjusted for the number of people who are awake at the time, the risk of suicide is five times greater between 2 AM and 3 AM.

The researchers’ “mind after midnight” hypothesis

The study, published last month, reviewed data from more than 78,000 suicides and 50,000 homicides in 35 states between 2003 and 2017. Suicide and homicide likely have more in common than is currently known; this study found another common feature: increased risk due to nocturnal wakefulness.

According to the study authors, being awake late at night has dangerous effects on the brain. Complex decision-making and rational thinking are weakened, risk/reward processing is distorted, and all this occurs while negative mood is at its peak.

The study found that these risks were exacerbated by other factors that impair decision-making and rational thinking, such as intoxication with alcohol. And the risk was highest among people age 15-24, who already have less ability to make complex decisions and think rationally compared to older adults.

A previous study, published in 2016 in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, found a similar connection between being awake at night and suicide risk. The authors of that study suggested that disturbed sleep and circadian neurobiology may have an effect on suicidality.

Understanding the link between sleep and suicide is critical for suicide prevention

The good news hidden in these study results is that insomnia can be managed and sleep disruptions can be mitigated. If we can help people who are at risk of suicide get better sleep, the data says that the risk of death by suicide will be at least somewhat reduced. Psychiatrists and other mental health providers should incorporate sleep assessments and appropriate interventions into their safety plans for patients who are at risk of suicide. They also need to follow up on patients’ complaints of disrupted sleep, treating them just as seriously as any other suicide risk factor.

Death by suicide occurs at times when decision-making, rational thinking, and impulse control are completely impaired. The popular myth that if a person wants to die by suicide, they eventually will, is just that: a myth. If appropriate interventions are made when a person is at the highest risk, the evidence says that they will most likely survive for the long term.

If you have lost a loved one to suicide completion, we can help

Another important component of suicide prevention is fighting for accountability for victims. The Law Offices of Skip Simpson stands up for families and holds negligent medical professionals accountable when they fail to protect patients at risk of dying by suicide. If you have lost a loved one to suicide completion, we would be honored to listen to your story in a free, confidential consultation. We’re based in Texas but serve families nationwide.

Survey Highlights Mental Health Challenges for LGBTQ+ Youth

A stethoscope alongside a Rainbow Pride flag, symbolizing healthcare and mental health support for the transgender and LGBTQ+ community.

Queer and transgender youth are facing an escalating mental health crisis, with many contemplating ending their lives. The Trevor Project’s 2024 U.S. National Survey on the Mental Health of LGBTQ+ Young People highlights this urgent issue and sheds light on the challenges these young individuals face.

The 2024 survey is the sixth of its kind conducted by the Trevor Project, which gathered responses from over 18,000 LGBTQ+ individuals ages 13 to 24. This report reveals that LGBTQ+ youth are not only grappling with suicide risk, bullying, and discrimination but are also heavily impacted by anti-LGBTQ+ laws and face difficulties accessing mental health care.

What is the suicide risk for LGBTQ+ youth?

The survey’s findings are alarming: 39% of LGBTQ+ young people considered suicide in the past year, and 12% made an attempt. Transgender and non-binary youth are particularly vulnerable, with nearly half contemplating suicide and about 14% attempting it. The risk is even higher among transgender youth and LGBTQ+ youth of color. For example, 48% of Indigenous LGBTQ+ youth considered suicide.

Ronita Nath, vice president of research at the Trevor Project, made it clear that these youth are not inherently prone to higher suicide risk but are placed at risk due to societal stigma and discrimination. Threats of conversion therapy, discrimination, and physical harm exacerbate this risk.

What are the mental health challenges LGBTQ+ youth face?

In addition to the high suicide risk, LGBTQ+ youth experience elevated rates of depression and anxiety. According to the survey, 66% reported anxiety symptoms, and 53% reported depression symptoms in the past year. Among them, transgender youth and youth of color again showed higher rates.

A significant pressure point for LGBTQ+ youth is the surge in discriminatory legislation across the United States. This year is poised to break records for the most anti-LGBTQ+ bills introduced, further worsening the mental health crisis for these young people. Stephen Russell, director of the School of Human Ecology at The University of Texas at Austin, notes that these laws are undoing decades of supportive work in schools.

The survey indicates that most LGBTQ+ young people feel their mental health is affected by anti-LGBTQ+ policies, with nearly two in five considering moving to a different state due to these politics. Among transgender and non-binary youth, 61% of those on gender-affirming hormones are concerned about losing access.

What can we do to support the LGBTQ+ community?

Community support plays a crucial role in the mental health of LGBTQ+ youth. However, only 40% reported that their home environment is supportive. The survey also revealed that 32% of LGBTQ+ youth were verbally harassed at school, 9% sexually harassed, and 4% physically attacked in the past year. Additionally, 60% felt discriminated against at least once in the past year due to their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Despite the high prevalence of mental health challenges, half of the LGBTQ+ youth who needed mental health care were unable to access it. Major barriers included:

  • Fear of discussing mental health.
  • Not wanting to seek parental permission.
  • Concerns about not being taken seriously.
  • Affordability.
  • Fear of being outed.
  • Worry about being misunderstood.

Despite these challenges, the survey also highlights ways to support LGBTQ+ youth. That includes supportive homes, schools, and communities. Nath points out that LGBTQ+ youth report lower rates of suicide attempts when they have access to supportive spaces. For example, the survey found that 78% of LGBTQ+ young people have at least one adult at school who supports their identity.

Supporting LGBTQ+ youth involves various actions, such as:

  • Educating oneself on LGBTQ+ issues.
  • Opposing politicians who advocate for discriminatory legislation.
  • Respecting gender expression and pronouns.
  • Welcoming their partners.
  • Showing support on social media.
  • Displaying pride flags.

Our law firm fights for justice and accountability

Supporting LGBTQ+ youth is not just about preventing suicide; it’s about affirming their right to live authentic, fulfilling lives. However, medical professionals who treat LGBTQ+ patients must be aware of the unique challenges such patients face and recommend appropriate medical interventions to prevent self-harm or suicide attempts.

The Law Offices of Skip Simpson is dedicated to holding negligent medical professionals accountable and demanding justice for grieving families. If you have lost a loved one to suicide completion, contact us for a free, confidential, and no-obligation consultation, either by phone or online. Our law firm is based in Texas, but we proudly serve families nationwide.

Study Reveals Alarming Suicide Rates Among Young Black Men

Young male sitting in a hallway, feeling depressed.

Young Black men often face systemic racism, socioeconomic disparities, and other challenges that impact their mental health. A recent study from the University of Georgia reveals that one in three rural Black men have experienced thoughts of suicide or death in the past two weeks. The study suggests that early-life adversity and racism are significant factors contributing to these feelings.

Suicide ranks as the second leading cause of death among African Americans aged 15 to 24, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The rate at which Black men die by suicide is notably higher than that of Black women, with men dying by suicide over four times as often. This issue appears to be under-discussed and is escalating.

According to Michael Curtis, a co-author of the study and an alumnus of UGA’s Human Development and Family Science Department, there seems to be a lack of focus on identifying which groups are most vulnerable to suicidal thoughts.

“Historically, research has not invested a lot of time and effort in looking into what are the unique cultural contexts that make certain men more at risk for suicidal thoughts than other men,” said Curtis.

How childhood adversity and racial discrimination impact the mental health of young Black men

According to the research, growing up in environments with limited resources and experiencing racial discrimination in early adulthood can hinder the development of healthy, trusting relationships. This lack of trust and caution in social interactions can lead to isolation, which may, in turn, trigger suicidal ideation.

The study tracked over 500 African American men from rural Georgia, from their late teens into their early 20s, over several years. At three different points during the study, these individuals were prompted to recount their childhood experiences and focus on economic struggles and traumatic events. The survey included questions about:

  • Physical or emotional abuse
  • Witnessing abuse within the family
  • Feeling cherished and valued
  • Having sufficient food
  • Access to medical care during their childhood

Participants in the study were also questioned about their perceptions and emotions regarding close relationships. That includes their trust in romantic partners and concerns about being exploited in relationships. They were asked how often they felt they had been treated unjustly due to their race in the past six months. Additionally, the researchers inquired about symptoms of depression and the frequency of suicidal thoughts or thoughts about death in the last two weeks.

The findings indicated that childhood experiences of trauma, deprivation, and racial discrimination significantly affected the mental health of the participants as they transitioned into adulthood.

Curtis explained, “We found when Black men were exposed to childhood adversity, they may develop an internal understanding of the world as somewhere they are devalued, where they could not trust others, and they could not engage the community in a supportive way.”

What challenges of adversity do young Black men face?

Young Black men, particularly those in rural areas, face greater challenges from childhood adversity. They are more likely to emerge from economically struggling families, live in under-resourced neighborhoods, and encounter trauma within their communities compared to their white counterparts.

Previous studies have documented that racial discrimination heightens the risk of depression, anxiety, and psychological distress among Black individuals across all age groups. While childhood neglect and trauma are predictors of suicidal ideation, the research also highlighted that racial discrimination alone significantly contributes to higher instances of suicidal thoughts.

Steve Kogan, the study’s lead author and a professor at UGA’s College of Family and Consumer Sciences, found that even those who had positive childhood experiences but faced racial discrimination in early adulthood struggled to form and sustain healthy relationships. This isolation often led to increased suicidal thoughts.

“For people who have suicidal thoughts, there’s this sense that no one knows me, nobody cares about me, there’s nobody there for me, I am alone,” said Kogan.

What is the role of healthy relationships in suicide prevention?

Healthy relationships are crucial for mental health and suicide prevention, according to researchers. These connections provide a vital support system for reaching out when overwhelming feelings arise. Parents also have a significant role in aiding their children through these challenges.

“More research is needed, but one finding is unequivocal: Loving yourself as a Black person is foundational,” said Kogan. “Teaching children and youth to be proud of being Black counters the potential for them to internalize negative messages about Blackness that pervade U.S. society.”

This study, conducted by Ava Reck, a doctoral student at UGA’s Human Development and Family Science program, and Assaf Oshri, an associate professor at the College of Family and Consumer Sciences, was published in the journal Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology.

Contact a suicide lawyer who advocates for justice

When families experience the devastating loss of a loved one due to a preventable suicide, they are often left searching for answers and accountability. The Law Offices of Skip Simpson is dedicated to supporting the families of young Black men. We hold accountable medical professionals who could have prevented a suicide but failed to do so.

If your family has suffered such a tragic loss, we encourage you to reach out to us. We offer a free, confidential consultation to discuss your case and explore your legal options. Based in Texas, we provide experienced and compassionate legal services to families across the entire United States. Contact us either by phone or online to learn how we can assist you during this difficult time.

The Silent Crisis of Autism and Suicide

Sad man sits alone in a hallway.

Adults with ASD have three times the risk of dying by suicide.

People with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) face numerous challenges in life, and one of the most tragic is a highly elevated risk of dying by suicide.

A 2021 study found that adults with ASD have more than three times the rate of both suicide attempts and suicide completion compared to the neurotypical population. For women with autism, that figure increases to four times the suicide rate. For autistic individuals with co-occurring mental health disorders, the suicide rate is 92% higher than those without ASD.

Given these findings, mental health professionals who work with autistic patients need to be acutely aware of the danger and respond accordingly. Suicide is preventable. Preventing suicide in the autistic population requires tailored interventions and strategies to meet the needs of individuals with ASD.

Why are people with ASD at increased risk of suicide?

Numerous studies have investigated the reasons for the correlation between autism and suicide. Many have focused on “masking” and “camouflaging” behavior; that is, autistic people feeling social pressure to blend in, which is emotionally and mentally exhausting. Another theory is that autistic people have high rates of trauma, and trauma, in turn, increases the risk of dying by suicide.

A recent article in Psychology Today suggested that the problem goes deeper, however. Autistic people have a neurological condition called hyperconnectivity: their whole-brain activity is very high. This translates into being overwhelmed by their environments and social demands, both at work and at home. And feeling overwhelmed, in turn, increases the risk of suicidal thoughts.

The Psychology Today article stated that people with autism can thrive when their support needs are met. Among other things, that means creating quiet spaces and emphasizing flexibility. It means ensuring that autistic people spend time every day in spaces where they are not expected to conform to neurotypical expectations. It means giving people with ASD room to be themselves.

Warning signs of suicidality in people with autism

An important part of suicide prevention is recognizing when someone may be at risk of suicide and promptly responding with appropriate interventions. Warning signs of suicide often present differently in people with ASD. According to the 988 Lifeline, key warning signs include:

  • Sudden or increased withdrawal.
  • Acute distress with no words to express.
  • A current traumatic event.
  • Self-harm behavior.
  • Worsening symptoms of anxiety or depression.
  • A new focus on talk of suicide or death-related topics.
  • Perseverating and ruminating on suicide.
  • Hopelessness.
  • Statements about losing a sense of purpose in life or reason for being.
  • Acquiring suicidal means or making plans.

People who know an autistic person well are often best equipped to recognize these warning signs and respond accordingly. Medical professionals who work with autistic patients also need to know these warning signs and recommend the appropriate medical interventions to prevent self-harm or suicide attempts.

Our law firm fights for accountability for families

When families lose loved ones to preventable suicides, they deserve answers. The Law Offices of Skip Simpson stands up for families and holds negligent medical professionals accountable when they fail to protect patients. If you have lost a loved one to suicide completion, give us a call or contact us online for a free, confidential consultation. We’re based in Texas but serve families nationwide.

Families Seek Accountability For Inpatient Suicides

In the inpatient department. The corridor has a quiet atmosphere with a modern high-tech design.

Negligent facilities need to be held responsible

Every year throughout the United States, many people considering suicide are admitted to an inpatient mental health facility for protection and treatment to stabilize their mental health condition. One of the most important responsibilities of these facilities is to take measures that prevent patients from taking their own lives. Sadly, these measures are not always followed – and many suicide attempts result in death.

For many years, Skip Simpson has filed successful lawsuits on behalf of family members to hold facilities accountable for neglecting this extremely important responsibility.

“When people go into the hospital to be protected, it’s a systemic issue,” said Attorney Skip Simpson in a article. “That means it’s not just the nurse, it’s not just the physician, but it’s the hospital itself. What happens is that the money is not spent to properly train and supervise those people who are watching the patients.”

Treatment by unqualified and unlicensed interns

One case filed by an attorney in New Jersey involves Anthony Sun, a 23-year-old pharmacy student who was experiencing depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts. After two suicide attempts and stays at two different inpatient facilities, Sun was put in the care of Christian Health Care Center and placed in an outpatient program.

On Dec. 1, 2017, Sun could not be located after his mother came to pick him up. Following a search, his mother found him hanging by a noose from a tree.

According to the lawsuit, most of Sun’s intake assessments – which included an assessment for risk of suicide – and treatment plan were done by a student intern who was unlicensed and unsupervised. The intern made critical errors in both the assessments and the treatment plan, the suit alleges.

Inadequate measures taken to prevent suicide

Another case in New Jersey involves Jaxson, a 16-year-old with female characteristics who later transitioned. Court documents note that Jaxson had attempted suicide and reported thoughts of hanging himself. He was taken to Morriston Medical Center and then transferred to Summit Oaks Hospital.

Measures had been taken at Morristown to prevent Jaxson from harming himself. These measures included having a sitter to watch him, placement in a room across the nursing station with the door always open, and removal of personal articles of clothing.

But these measures were not taken at Summit Oaks. Jaxson was placed in a corner room away from the nursing station with no sitter. He was observed in 15-minute intervals. There were two beds, fully made with sheets. Jaxson was found hanging by a noose made from a bedsheet that was affixed to a heavy wooden door.

The families of loved ones deserve justice

Simpson said 15-minute observation intervals are common for suicidal patients. But the problem, he notes, is that patients who hang themselves lose consciousness after just 45 seconds, and brain damage occurs after two minutes. After five minutes, the patient usually dies.

“They sometimes say, ‘Well, that’s the standard of care.’ And it’s not,” he said. “The standard of care means that they’re on either one-to-one or line of sight. The reason why they want them on every 15-minute watch is because it’s less expensive.”

Simpson also notes that hanging with a bedsheet is the most common method of suicide for people in institutions.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the suicide rate in the U.S. grew by 37% from 2000 to 2018. After declining in 2019 and 2020, the suicide rate grew 5% in 2021 and another 2.6% in 2022.

The Law Offices of Skip Simpson is dedicated to suicide prevention. Attorney Skip Simpson is well aware of how negligence at inpatient facilities can have devastating consequences. When families have lost loved ones to suicide that could have been prevented, he provides compassionate representation and demands accountability.

Learn more about how we can help. Contact us to schedule a free consultation.

CDC Data Reveals Disturbing Surge in Suicide Rates

Teenager girl with depression sitting alone on the floor in the dark room. . Black and white photo

Much more needs to be done to reverse this deadly trend.

A recent analysis of data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has shown that suicide mortality in the United States has increased dramatically in the 21st century thus far, even as global suicide rates have dropped.

Overall, suicide rates increased by 30% between 2000 and 2018, before declining somewhat in 2019 and 2020.

The data reveals mental health challenges in specific segments of the population

The largest increase came in the American Indian/Alaska Native (AIAN) population, with a 65% increase among AIAN women and a 35% increase among AIAN men. Suicide mental health more broadly plays a significant role in the shorter life expectancy among the AIAN community: about seven years less than the national average.

“The findings underscore the need to address underlying mental health issues in AIAN populations and emphasize the importance of implementing community-based suicide prevention strategies tailored to specific racial groups,” lead investigator Bibha Dhungel, DrPH, of Waseda University in Tokyo, Japan, told Medscape Medical News.

White men had the next-largest increase at 29%, as well as the highest overall suicide mortality rate. Suicide death rates tend to be higher among men than women, even though attempts are more common among women, primarily because men are far more likely to use firearms and firearms are by far the deadliest of the commonly used suicide methods.

A broad crisis that affects all ages and demographic groups

The overall suicide death rate among Americans is unacceptably high: nearly 46,000 deaths per year, or about one every 11 minutes.

As high as suicide mortality in the United States has become, looking at death rates alone obscures an even broader mental health crisis. In 2020, for example, an estimated 12.2 million American adults seriously considered suicide. Of those, 3.2 million planned a suicide attempt, and 1.2 million actually attempted suicide. And those numbers are only among adults; suicide rates among children and teens have risen, too.

The silver lining is that suicide is preventable. While a still-persistent myth claims that if someone is suicidal, there’s nothing more that can be done, the reality is that people at risk of suicide are highly conflicted and ambivalent. With timely help, support, and intervention, suicide risk can be mitigated and lives can be saved.

Friends, family members, and colleagues of people at risk of suicide can save lives by growing their awareness and learning basic suicide prevention methods, such as the QPR (Question, Persuade, Refer) method. And professionals who work with at-risk populations, such as social workers, legal professionals, and medical professionals, need to step up, learn the warning signs, and make timely and appropriate referrals to suicide prevention resources to save lives.

Our law firm pursues accountability and justice for families

Suicide is preventable, and unfortunately, too many preventable suicides occur because of the negligence of physicians, medical professionals, and mental health facilities. Doctors who care for suicidal patients need to conduct suicide screening, and then—if suicidal risk is detected, a systematic suicide risk assessment must be performed to determine appropriate suicide management.

If patients are to be treated outpatient, there must be more frequent visits and phone consultations each week; family members (when appropriate) are fully informed of the patient’s needs and made part of the treatment team; this means the patient needs to waive confidentiality and told why it is necessary.

These actions and the rationale need to be documented. If suicide risk is so high that the outpatient physician is uncertain the patient will live to the next appointment, the patient should be hospitalized for protection from suicide. Protection in the facility means one-to-one or line of sight monitoring. When healthcare clinicians and mental health facilities do not meet standards of care, the consequences can be tragic. We work to hold them accountable.

If you have lost a loved one to suicide completion, the Law Offices of Skip Simpson would be honored to listen to your story and explain your legal rights and options. Give us a call or contact us online for a free, confidential, no-obligation consultation. Our firm is based in Texas but serves families nationwide.

How “Virtual Hope Boxes” Might Help Prevent Suicide

The word "hope" inscribed on a heart shape against a green outdoor background.

Leveraging technology to provide options for people at risk.

While we’ve written before about the ways technology can play a role in increasing suicide risk, it’s important to know that digital tools can also be used as effective suicide prevention methods.

Earlier this year, a study found that “virtual hope boxes” could be helpful tools for individuals who experience suicidal thoughts to get through moments of crisis. While more research is needed, these promising findings highlight a potentially lifesaving tool.

What is a “hope box” and how can it be used for suicide prevention?

The traditional “hope box” is a tool used in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) to help patients who experience suicidal ideation. Hope boxes may contain:

  • Reminders of social connections (such as photographs of friends and family).
  • Uplifting memories of life experiences (such as concert tickets and souvenirs).
  • Distraction tools (such as fidget toys or puzzles).
  • Reminders of reasons for living.
  • Items with symbolic significance to the individual.

Creating a hope box is a deeply personal and individualized effort. Mental health professionals work with clients to identify memories, experiences, people, and locations that help them to feel hopeful, then fill the box with items that represent those sources of hope. The hope box itself is a tangible reminder of a choice the individual has made to go on living, choosing hope over despair. It also becomes a tangible coping strategy during moments of crisis that can disrupt the cycle of despair and suicidal ideation.

The value of the virtual hope box

A “virtual hope box” is a digital, mobile adaptation of the physical hope box. According to the study, virtual hope boxes contain six main components:

  • Visual reminders of important people and memories, such as photos and videos.
  • Distraction tools, such as word searches and picture puzzles.
  • Relaxation exercises, such as guided meditation.
  • Inspirational quotes, which can be user-supplied.
  • Coping cards containing adaptive behaviors.
  • Supportive contacts, including user-added contacts as well as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

The advantages of an app-based solution are portability and usability. In a moment of crisis, often, the most valuable intervention is the one that the at-risk person can access right away. Unlike a physical hope box, which requires the individual to carry numerous physical items, the smartphone-based analog is accessible at the touch of a button.

According to the study, virtual hope box users gave the app-based tool high marks for usefulness and said they were likely to use it again. Most of the students studied took advantage of the hope box at least once.

Suicide is a preventable tragedy, and mental health professionals need to use all available tools

As encouraging as the study results on virtual hope boxes may be, the research was limited to a small population of mostly female undergraduate students. More research is needed to investigate whether these tools are helpful for other populations, such as older adults and psychiatric patients, and to further investigate their effectiveness in actually preventing suicide.

However, the study results speak to a larger truth: suicide is preventable, and the right interventions at the right time can make all the difference. Medical professionals who treat patients who are at risk of suicide need to use the tools at their disposal to intervene and mitigate those risks. The consequences of failure to do so can be catastrophic.

If you have lost a loved one, our law firm is here to help

When preventable suicides occur due to medical negligence and mental health malpractice, families are left reeling and searching for answers. Our mission at the Law Offices of Skip Simpson is to fight for accountability and justice for those families. If you have lost a loved one to suicide completion, give us a call or contact us online for a free, confidential, no-obligation consultation. We are based in Texas and represent families nationwide.

Making Peace With Chronic Pain Can Reduce Suicide Risk, Study Shows

A depressed man sitting on a couch is being offered support by a friend.

Research shows that people diagnosed with chronic health conditions have significantly higher suicide risk than the general population. And one of the most common chronic conditions in the United States is chronic pain.

Over 50 million U.S. adults experience some degree of chronic pain (defined as pain that lasts at least 3 months), according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Of those, over 17 million experience “high-impact” chronic pain; that is, pain that results in substantial restriction to daily activities. Any degree of chronic pain is associated with elevated suicide risk, and the more severe the pain, the greater the risk.

Fortunately, research suggests that there is a pathway to mitigate that risk. According to University of Texas San Antonio (UTSA) professor Willie Hale, people with chronic pain can reduce their suicide risk by “making peace with their pain.”

Understanding the link between chronic pain and suicide risk

According to Hale’s research, there are two principal reasons why people with chronic pain are at elevated risk of suicide. One is intuitive: they may simply want their pain to stop.

The other explanation comes from the Interpersonal Theory of Suicide: people with chronic pain may feel like a burden to others. Chronic pain can cause people to need help with activities of daily living or opt out of social activities. They may feel bad for asking their caregivers and family members for help. They may be unable to work and feel like a burden on their families or on society financially. And research has shown that feeling like a burden increases the risk of suicide.

The longer chronic pain lasts, the more entrenched these patterns of thinking and feeling become. However, with appropriate care and clinical intervention, chronic pain patients can “short-circuit the relationship between pain and suicide cognitions,” according to Hale.

Coming to a place of pain acceptance mitigates suicide risk

Distinct from managing the pain itself, which may or may not be feasible, people with chronic pain can minimize their suicide risk by reaching a place of acceptance. Hale defines “chronic pain acceptance” as “the ability to engage in activities that are meaningful toward an individual’s life goals, even if that means experiencing pain, as well as the ability to refrain from attempts to reduce or avoid pain.”

As such, acceptance and commitment therapy may serve as an effective clinical intervention to help individuals push through their chronic pain and participate in meaningful activities. In addition to interrupting those feelings of being a burden, reaching a place of acceptance can help individuals maintain social connectedness, which is a key factor in reducing the risk of suicide.
“If you can move people from making no peace with their pain to just being a little bit okay with it, that cuts their suicide risk in half,” said Hale. “And if you can get them to a high level of pain acceptance, it eliminates that risk altogether.”

Medical professionals who treat people with chronic pain need to be aware of the risk

People with chronic pain are usually also under the care of a pain management doctor or other medical professional. Unfortunately, too many doctors who treat people with physical pain are not adequately trained in mental health and suicide prevention. They may overlook the warning signs and fail to refer patients for mental health treatment. The consequences can be deadly.

The research is clear that people with chronic pain are at elevated risk of dying by suicide. Medical professionals need to take that risk into account when they care for patients with chronic pain. When they fail to follow standards of care, they should be held accountable.

If you have lost a loved one to suicide completion, contact the Law Offices of Skip Simpson for a free, confidential legal consultation. There is no obligation to hire us, just answers about your family’s legal rights and options. We are based in Texas and represent families nationwide.

Survey: Suicide Prevention Should Be A Priority

teen consoling friend; suicide malpractice lawyer

A company aims to reduce attempts

A new CVS Health/Harris Poll survey shows that suicide continues to be a crisis in the United States, with 89% of adults in the country identifying suicide prevention efforts as a major priority in our society.

“Our nation continues to face a mental health and suicide crisis, especially among youth and older adults,” said Cara McNulty, President of Behavioral Health and Mental Well-being at CVS Health. “However, with timely, evidence-based interventions, and public awareness efforts, we know suicide is preventable.”

This survey was conducted online in August, with 2,016 U.S. adults age 18 and over who agreed to answer questions about sensitive and personal information about mental health, including topics related to suicide.

Other findings in the survey:

  • 18% of survey respondents said they were plagued with suicidal thoughts within the past year
  • 36% said there were times within the past year when they contemplated suicide.
  • 32% said they strongly agree that they can recognize the warning signs of someone potentially at risk for suicide
  • 43% said they are strongly aware of resources offering support and information on suicide prevention.

A commitment to mental health

CVS Health also reported on its efforts to reduce suicide attempts among Aetna members. (Aetna is a subsidiary of CVS Health.) When compared with a 2019 baseline, there was a 16% reduction in suicide attempts among adult Commercial members.

Attempts among 13-17-year-olds were still above the 2019 baseline, but there was a 13% reduction from 2022 to 2021.

“Every suicide that is prevented is a life that is saved,” said Taft Parsons III, M.D., Vice President and Chief Psychiatric Officer at CVS Health. “We are working closely with our partners to implement targeted interventions for youth and develop similar programming for older adults. Together we can help raise awareness of the ongoing crisis and connect those in need to evidence-based resources that can help save lives.”

Resources to help prevent suicide

CVS Health said it has several partnerships and programs in place to support Aetna members, including:

  • an outreach program for high-risk youth members
  • access to specialized outpatient programs, including a suicide prevention program combining digital solutions, telehealth sessions, and specially trained clinicians
  • a program that sends a simple message of hope to Aetna members who are discharged from an intensive level of care related to suicide.

“We’ve developed an approach based on early detection, data-backed support methods, programs for those that have lost someone to suicide and community education to help those in need and empower their support systems,” said McNulty. “Every life saved is worth the effort.”

We demand accountability

The Law Offices of Skip Simpson is passionate about suicide prevention. Psychiatric hospitals and mental health care providers have a responsibility to try to prevent patient suicides. When that responsibility is not met, responsible parties should be held accountable.

Attorney Skip Simpson is a nationally recognized expert in inpatient suicide law. He has represented many families nationwide following the death of a loved one by suicide. He understands what they are going through and fights to help them seek justice – and works to help prevent future suicides.

Learn more about how we can help. Contact us to schedule a free and confidential consultation.

Newly Identified Brain Marker May Indicate Future Suicide Risk

Texas suicide lawyer

Promising research may help to shape future interventions

Numerous risk factors for suicide are well known, including depression, anxiety, substance abuse, a history of self-harm, job loss, divorce, suffering from frantic hopelessness or a state of entrapment defined as being stuck in a life situation that is painful and intolerable, and a feeling that all routes of escape are blocked.

Additionally, affective disturbance (i.e., emotional pain, rapid spikes of negative emotions, extreme anxiety, anhedonia), loss of cognitive control (i.e., rumination, cognitive rigidity, ruminative flooding, failed thought suppression), overarousal (i.e., agitation, hypervigilance, irritability, insomnia), and social withdrawal (i.e., reduction in activity, evasive communication) are important factors to consider.

However, measuring suicide risk is always a challenge, in part because there are many other people who have the same risk factors but do not attempt suicide. Why do some people transition from suicidal ideation to planning to actually attempting suicide, and others do not?

The answers to this question are complex and defy neat categorization. However, a new study has shone light on at least one piece of the puzzle: the role of unusual connectivity in the brain.

The link between brain connectivity and suicide risk

In the study, researchers from Boston University and the VA Boston Healthcare System examined veterans who had a history of trauma and showed symptoms of depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. The participating veterans were given a resting functional MRI scan, which tracks communication between brain regions and networks to show how different areas interact.

The researchers then compared the brain connectivity in veterans who had reported at least one suicide attempt and in those who did not. To emphasize, these individuals had otherwise equivalent psychiatric symptoms; the only significant difference was the history of suicide attempts.

The MRI results showed significant differences in important connections in the brain between the veterans with a history of suicide attempts and the control group, both before and after the suicide attempts themselves, specifically in the right middle temporal gyrus (right MTG). Those differences affected cognitive control (adjusting behavior to fit a certain goal) and self-referential thought processing (reflecting on the past and thinking about what we need to do in the future).

Researchers also found abnormal connectivity in the right amygdala in veterans with a history of suicide attempts, but only after the attempts, making this finding less useful for predictive purposes. However, this is a significant clue when it comes to identifying why previous suicide attempts increase the risk of future attempts.

Identifying these brain changes could be a powerful suicide risk assessment method

According to the BU and VA researchers, these findings have the potential to transform suicide assessment by providing a measure of suicidality that does not require self-disclosure of suicidal thoughts. Most current suicide risk assessment methods are dependent on the suicidal person disclosing their thoughts and behaviors. (The Suicide Crisis Syndrome is an exception; it too is not dependent on a person disclosing suicide ideation). An objective measure of brain connectivity could help medical professionals identify at-risk patients who would otherwise be overlooked.

Researchers also noted that their findings could influence future treatments for suicidality. “This could also lead to new treatments that target these brain regions and their underlying functions,” said Audreyana Jagger-Rickels, a Boston University Chobanian & Avedisian School of Medicine assistant professor of psychiatry and lead author on the paper.

The study findings highlight the importance of suicide assessment and prevention

More research needs to be done to investigate the role of connections in the brain in determining suicide risk. These findings, however, speak to a larger truth that is well-known in the suicide prevention community: suicide risk can be identified and treated with prompt, appropriate interventions.

When medical professionals fail to meet standards of care and patients die by suicide, our law firm works to hold them accountable. If you have lost a loved one to suicide completion, contact the Law Offices of Skip Simpson today for a free and confidential consultation. Our firm represents families nationwide.