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Geriatric Depression and Suicide

An epidemic bridging the generation gap

Texas suicide lawyerThe mental health of the elderly often falls to the wayside in our conversations about the current crisis surrounding suicide. While the focus has lately been on the younger generations, who are seeing a rising number of deaths, we should never turn a blind eye to our elders. Sadly, that seems to be the case. Elderly people account for less than 10% of community mental  health services even though they represent 15% of the population, a number that could begin to dwindle if we do not take their health, mental as well as physical, into serious consideration.

The Law Offices of Skip Simpson knows how important taking care of loved ones is. We all age, and we all want a quality of life for our loved ones that is comfortable and safe. Achieving this takes more than buying a room, a bed and a caregiver; it means seeing ourselves as caregivers to our elders’ mental health. It could mean saving lives.

Brain Age: Loss of Stability Can Lead to Loss of Life

There is a common misconception that getting older means growing content with an emotional state of nostalgia, and this misconception easily leads to the dismissal of elder mental health care. According to statistics from the CDC, depression affects up to 5% of our elderly population, and their suicides represent 16.6% of the tragic total amount in the United States. What leads to the decline in mental health that seems to plague our elder population?

As we age, we begin to lose parts of our lives that have kept us stable, or remained part of our version of normal life for as long as we can remember. Age contributes to fragile health and can lead to a diagnosis of Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, dementia, cancer, or general deterioration of the body that many find hard to cope with. To callous and busy medical staff, these may just be diagnostic codes, but to the patients behind the files, they mean the collapse of a lifestyle they’ve built and been accustomed to for a lifetime. Other triggers for geriatric depression include:

  • The loss of a spouse, immediate family member or close friends.
  • Financial difficulties.
  • Loss of ability to work.
  • Loss of independence due to need for caretaking, inability to work, and adult children who do not depend on them anymore; this often leads to the elderly feeling “worthless.”
  • Medication side effects, as from anti-inflammatory or cardiovascular drugs.
  • Isolation: As we age, socializing may become more difficult. Older patients may be in hospitals or assisted living, away from family and friends. In addition, illness prevents the elderly from living their lives with the clarity and independence that they deserve.
  • Slow-acting conditions such as arthritis and macular degeneration.

All of these factors play into the rapid decline of a senior person’s mental and physical health. While we may often see older folks as infantile (a view that is often considered offensive) and simple, they have mental health needs that are overlooked on a consistent basis.

Recognizing the Signs: Red Flags in The Elderly

Older white males are at a higher risk for completed deaths by suicide in this age demographic, 29 per 100,000 and over 47 per 100,000 if over the age of 85.  Due to cultural stigma trickling down from a past generation where men were not encouraged to speak about their feelings, and the systemic societal and medical problems that the elderly face, many feel silenced. They feel trapped, without the support of their families who are off living their lives while they remain stuck living alone, or in assisted living where the assistance is too often minimal. In some homes, registered nurses aren’t even on the premises most of the time, leaving patients without critical care. This problem led to the filing of a very self-explanatory bill: “Put a Registered Nurse in the Nursing Home Act of 2014.”

The statistics for elder suicide may in fact be under-reported. Very little focus is on their demographic, and the United States already suffers a startling lack of mental health support for its overall population. While it may seem difficult to recognize the signs of mental deterioration within our aging loved ones, red flags associated with the depression and loneliness that they feel are not so different than the ones we see in younger people:

  • Withdrawal from social life
  • Lack of interest in daily activities such as eating, socializing or basic hygiene, and a general lack of interest in life.
  • Giving away prized possessions; this may seem normal as people advance in their age, but is hallmark behavior of the suicidal.
  • Verbal signs such as “You would all be better off without me”
  • Feeling a loss of independence
  • A medical condition that could affect their impulsivity
  • A recent death in the family, especially a spouse, sibling, child or pet.
  • Sudden personality changes, especially with impulsive behavior

Missing the signs can mean the eventual loss of a life. Nurses and caretakers should be properly trained in recognizing when a patient or resident’s mental health begins to decline. The elderly population is often thought of as wanting to be alone, or desiring solitude to find calm. This mindset can come with a heavy penalty: death. “The proportion of older people who take their own lives without a diagnosable mental illness is very, very small,” says Dr. Conwell, a psychiatrist at the University of Rochester Medical Center.

Medical Complications: One of These Conditions is Not Like the Other

In yet another blow to the myth that aging is a peaceful and simple process, physical medical complications can contribute to the deterioration of one’s mental health. As previously discussed, the diagnosis of a medical condition can easily cause a rapid spiral into depression. However, some conditions like dementia and Parkinson’s disease can directly contribute to a lack of cognitive and emotional stability.

According to studies, the link between depression and Alzheimer’s disease is well-established. However, diagnosis may prove difficult, given that the presentation of dementia greatly varies. In one study, 11.8% of surveyed seniors with dementia lived with major depression, compared to 3.9% of seniors without dementia.

As with any condition that affects the brain, emotions can suffer. Factoring in the feelings of isolation, loss of independence and loneliness that seniors often feel can show an easily visible cocktail for major depression. Healthcare providers should take careful note to survey seniors using the Geriatric Depression Scale. Answered with a YES/NO format, these 15 questions are meant to be used as a screening for depression and depressive symptoms: 10 indicate depression when answered positively, and 5 can be indicative of depression when answered negatively. Screening, especially when a person already has a neurological condition, can help to assess the best course of action for treatment.

Medicare does cover mental health services, including prescription drugs. With not all seniors aware of their coverage, they could be missing life-saving treatment. In fact, 18 to 25% of elderly people need mental health care, but only roughly 3% of Medicare reimbursement is for mental health and psychiatric treatment.

Addiction: The Hidden Figures

Someone’s mother, grandmother, uncle, cousin or brother is caught up in the claws of addiction at this very minute. The opioid crisis is ravaging the United States, leaving no demographic untouched. With community agencies not equipped to take care of the needs of seniors, elder suicide is not often seen or dealt with by them. This leaves homeless and low-income seniors without many options for coping with their mental health. Sadly, some turn to substances in the absence of professional help.

Currently, widowers over the age of 75 have the highest rate of alcoholism in the United States. This seems to occur after the sudden loss of a partner or child, or unchecked trauma. An entire generation before us did not have access to the mental health care or even proper diagnosis for the effects of trauma or mood disorders. In an age where physical, sexual and emotional abuse were swept under the rug with most mental problems, older adults are left with untreated Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, depression, and more.

Painkillers are an unfortunate second source of addiction. Relatively accessible for most seniors, the emotional high and relief from physical discomfort the drugs bring can be addicting at the first try.
“Chronic pain as a result of age, past injuries and other medical illnesses is certainly present in the older adult population,” said Dr. Wang of Caron Treatment Center, “It leads to prescribing painkillers for years, if not decades. “

According to research by Caron Treatment Centers, 39% of older adults entering treatment there come with a chronic pain diagnosis.

The signs of substance abuse disorder can be confused with those of aging by healthcare professionals who miss their mark. Thankfully, older adults are more likely to be willing participants in their own recovery, especially with the support of family or loved ones.

Nursing Home Protections Rolled Back

Under the new administration, the use of fines against nursing homes that harm residents has been greatly scaled back. Four of every ten nursing homes since 2013 have been cited for violations, often serious ones. While Medicare has fined two-thirds of the offending homes, the problems still exist. Failure to protect residents from circumstances that could cause injuries, neglect and bedsores are among the list of offenses.

New fining regulations in place discourage regulators from levying fines even in fatal situations. A promise to reduce the government’s presence in businesses has left many seniors at risk.

Hold Healthcare Accountable

With the demand for registered nurses to have a 24/7 presence at nursing homes, it is safe to say that at least some problems and gaps in our healthcare system have been identified. Seniors are a particularly vulnerable demographic that can easily fall between the cracks and go ignored, but they suffer surprisingly high rates of suicide. As our loved ones age, their needs for care change along with their bodies and minds. We entrust them to facilities and primary caregivers who should be screening them for depression, paying attention to changes in their behavior, offering accessible mental health, and being present when the elderly are ready to use resources available for them.

Most late-life deaths by suicide are completed, even though older adults do not attempt as often as their younger counterparts. This is largely attributed to an increased access to firearms or other lethal weapons. In some populations such as older veterans, detailed knowledge in operating them is a key factor in death by suicide. We as a society have the capacity to reduce these numbers, and we must hold the responsible parties accountable. Our healthcare has too little to offer our seniors, from the inconsistent presence of nurses in homes to the confusion of dementia and depression symptoms. Screening is in order. Proper care is in order.

If you or a loved one has lost an elder due to suicide, you aren’t alone. Help is closer than you think-contact The Law Offices of Skip Simpson today.

Autism and Suicide

Connecting the missing pieces

New York suicide lawyerIn 2016, one person in the United States died by suicide every 11.7 minutes. Parents, children, siblings and cousins are lost in droves on a daily basis, leaving questions in their wake. How could this have been prevented? What was the spark that caused it? While most victims suffered from a mental illness, the quality of their treatment and support network is often questioned. While not a mental illness, autism is a developmental disorder that comes with a startlingly high rate of suicide and suicidal ideation.

Depression appears to be more common in people with developmental disabilities. In a study focusing on children with autism spectrum disorders, the percentage of children (rated by parents through interviews) who were rated as “very often” contemplating or attempting suicide was twenty-eight times greater in autistic children than those with no developmental disorders.

The Law Offices of Skip Simpson knows how difficult it is to deal with the aftermath of suicide. The effects on family and friends are devastating, compounded by the fact that the death was more than likely preventable. We work to help loved ones find closure and justice in a system that has failed them, and to better understand the events and conditions surrounding their loss.

Suicidal tendencies can be difficult to spot

The trope of autistic people having little to no facial expression, reflecting little to no emotional depth, is a harmful stereotype. It turns out to be the opposite that is true for autistic people, which leads to an overlap of symptoms found in depression. Those with autism or spectrum disorders can feel emotion, and can also feel the lethargy, disconnection with the world and social withdrawal that are common symptoms of depression. This can lead to a patient with undiagnosed, ignored depression left to attempt to cope and understand their own illness – and the risks that come with it.

While depression is not the only mental affliction that can lead to suicidal tendencies, its symptoms cannot go ignored. A representative from Coventry University’s Center for Research in Psychology, Behavior and Achievement conducted a study on 365 adults diagnosed with Asperger syndrome, known as a high-functioning form of autism. 66 percent had contemplated suicide, and 35% had planned or attempted suicide. While the representative was quoted as saying “the journey from suicidal thoughts to suicidal behaviors might be quite different,” the journey is one well worth investigating, and such an investigation may save lives.

Common warning sides of suicide include:

  • Threats of self-harm
  • Active research into ways to die by suicide
  • Vengeful thoughts or behavior, or fits of rage
  • Acting reckless, as though the consequences of their actions don’t matter
  • Dramatic mood changes
  • Withdrawing from society, family and friends
  • Giving away treasured possessions

Anxiety, depression and stress are on the rise among Americans. Access to healthcare between the years 2006 and 2014 was on the decline for many, partially due to the Great Recession. People with mental health issues were less likely to receive help, making it harder for people with autism spectrum disorders to recognize and treat their depression and anxiety. They’ve been left vulnerable ever since.

Emotional Turmoil as a Symptom

The explosive moods that plague people with autism spectrum disorders and Asperger syndrome can be startling, frightening the sufferer as well as those around them. Up to 50% of adults with Autism Spectrum Disorders have considered death by suicide as an option, which is double the rate of the general population. It is reported that those newly diagnosed are the most at risk, having come from years of not understanding their condition and considering themselves outcasts. Emotional regulation can be difficult for many.

The struggle to fit in is a lifelong battle, often isolating those with autism and putting them at risk for depressive episodes. Emotional turmoil is common, and autistic people can suffer from a cognitive pattern that causes a fixation on a particular line of thought. This can easily turn into a hazard when that thought involves the end of life. Stress, isolation, undiagnosed depression and lack of access to care are all factors in a potentially deadly mess. “This is a community in distress”, said Katherine Gotham, the assistant professor of psychiatry at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN.

Suicidal thoughts are all too common in those with autism

Adults are not the only ones affected by both depression and autism. Suicide is the second leading cause of death in American teens, and those with autism are even more at risk. Studies have suggested they are 28 times more likely to plan out or attempt a suicide. A study published in Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders surveyed the mothers of 791 children with autism aged 1-16 years, 35 nonautistic depressed children and 186 neurotypical children. When asked about behavior problems, bullying or talk of suicide, children with autism were overall more at risk to talk about or attempt suicide. When compared with neurotypical children, the disparity was huge: 14% to 0.5%.

Roughly 75% of autistic children who talk about suicide had the disorder comorbid with depression. Class, race and age seemed to play a role as well. Males, those over the age of 10, those in low economic classes and Black and Hispanic children all seemed have an increased risk of talking about suicide. Over 50% of the group experienced bullying, an all too common factor in death by suicide, especially for the young who may already feel “atypical.” The study concluded that it was important to develop prevention techniques for, call attention to, and develop therapy practices for this group.

The life of an autistic child is no tragedy, but what they experience can certainly be tragic. Bullying can lead to isolation, or thoughts that one (no matter what age) does not “belong” in a society that classifies them as “abnormal” or somehow inferior or incapable of participating in life like a “regular” person would.

Autistic people eat, breathe, feel and have hopes and dreams for the future, the same as any other. They are also at risk for mental health issues that can have devastating consequences if not treated properly, or recognized.

Awareness is the solution

Diagnosis is a powerful remedy. Misdiagnosis, or ignorance of a potential patient’s complaints about their mental or cognitive state can be deadly. Healthcare providers should consider screening those with autism for depression, and pay attention to symptoms that could correlate with Autism Spectrum Disorders. A study involving 374 autistic adults found that the average age of diagnosis was 31. Without proper screening, diagnosis and treatment for spectrum disorders and depression, healthcare providers are putting an already vulnerable population at further risk for suicidal ideation, debilitating depressive episodes, and suicide attempts. It doesn’t have to be like this.

For every person thinking of death by suicide, there are thousands more struggling with repetitive thoughts and emotional turmoil that is a dangerous precursor. Autistic people are valued members of our families and communities, and fully capable of surviving trying times to lead a fulfilling life. They deserve the proper therapy and screening that can get them the help they need in times of crisis.

If you or someone you know has suffered a loss due to suicide, contact the Law Offices of Skip Simpson today.

The Silent Killer

Eating disorders, comorbid depression and suicide in children and adolescents

Many illnesses have symptoms that are physically identifiable, and health professionals can visually observe their progression. However, just as many illnesses do not manifest outwardly. Some may not affect the body in the same way as more common diagnoses, but deeply alter the mind.

Too often, signs and symptoms of mental illness are missed in children and adolescents, chalked up to a “quirk” or “bid for attention” when urgent, competent care is needed. We know this too well. At the Law Offices of Skip Simpson, we deal with tragic cases of death by suicide that have many different causes, but have one thing in common: these deaths are preventable with proper awareness and treatment.

Mental illness still carries a heavy stigma in the United States. Taking sick days to care for a mental condition like depression or severe anxiety is a concept still misunderstood and underutilized by employers and employees alike. The idea that the adult mind can simply “get over” or “work through” problems is pervasive, and those toxic ideas pass on to our most vulnerable population: our youth.

When cries for help fall on deaf ears

In Long Island this year, a mother lost sight of her son. He was trapped in the throes of two devastating mental (and often comorbid) illnesses: an eating disorder and depression. Barely a teenager at 13, Liam used to enjoy playing soccer and looked forward to beginning high school. However, as his mother noted in a moving Facebook post, he began to waste away mentally and physically. He was withdrawn, and had stopped eating. For the longest time, he was silent about his troubles until, finally, his parents learned the cause: bullying on a daily basis. Admitted to a hospital where treatment for his eating disorder and depression, Liam had already lost a year of his life he will never be able to get back, and was at extreme risk for suicide.

Nearly 43,000 Americans die by suicide annually, making it the 10th leading cause of the death in the entire country. While we scramble for answers – who was responsible for these deaths – we often overlook the what. Liam, like many children, was suffering from mental illnesses exacerbated by bullying.

Starving for recognition

Up to 30 million people suffer from eating disorders. Too often regarded as a problem with vanity, or a passing phase, the reality is that an eating disorder is a mental illness with a direct, potentially deadly effect on the body. Many sufferers have been barely surviving with carefully concealed bloated cheeks, cracked lips and sunken abdomens since childhood, and the road to recovery can last a lifetime.

Some of the potentially deadly eating disorders currently known are:

  • Bulimia Nervosa – characterized by a binge and purge cycle in which the sufferer consumes an irrationally large amount of food, then purges via forced vomiting. These episodes are often triggered by feelings of malcontent, self-hatred, or stress.
  • Anorexia Nervosa – A restrictive type of eating disorder in which the sufferer seeks negative caloric intake and positive output. Though not strictly attributed to just this disorder, over-exercising and fasting as well as fad diets are common.
  • Orthorexia – An unhealthy, disordered type of relationship with food and diets comprised of obsessive dieting and exercising. The sufferer may appear to be a “health nut” while actually struggling with a serious mental illness.
  • BED – Stands for “binge eating disorder,” which is characterized by periods of compulsive overeating far beyond feeling full. Unlike bulimia nervosa, there are no (or very few) instances of purging as part of the cycle.
  • EDNOS – “Eating disorder not otherwise specified”. This is often used for people who miss the mark on Anorexia Nervosa’s current weight requirement-usually a BMI below 17.5 in adults, or less than 85% of what is considered normal for the patients’ body. Mixed symptoms and behaviors are present that do not fall into any one category.

Anorexia nervosa carries the highest mortality rate of any mental illness, partially due to the physical damage to the body, and partially due to the damage to the mind. Deprived of nutrients and turning to itself for energy, the body will cannibalize its own muscle in order to survive. This often affects the heart, which may lead to sudden cardiac arrest. The brain suffers as well, losing the ability to think clearly, remember, or regulate emotions and personality traits. These effects on a child’s still developing brain are devastating. Those with anorexia nervosa are 56 times more likely to die by suicide than those without.

Eating disorders can easily exacerbate any existing mental health problems, or cause depression in a stressed and nutrient-deprived brain. In such an extreme state, suicide commonly comes to the mind of a sufferer lost in the disease. Younger females with AN are 12 times more likely to die than their ED-free peers, and bulimia nervosa carries with it the risk of cardiac arrest from so much repetitive stress on the body.

Children who develop eating disorders are often the products of bullying, overbearing families, and neglect. Emotional and physical trauma in early childhood can easily lead to a feeling of emptiness and obsession with consuming emotions, often comorbid with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. An eating disorder in a child can be seen as a symptom of an underlying problem, but not many people are trained in recognizing the warning signs that need to be addressed in order to treat it.

Neglect can kill

Suicide is on the rise for children. In teen boys, our country saw a 30% increase in suicide rates between 2007 and 2015. A study done in 2016 showed that suicide can strike children as young as 5. Among older children, depression was the most common present disorder. Males saw a particular climb, and these numbers should prompt a discussion on why mental health care is not advocated for or spoken about as much as it should be. How can we fix this, and stop this deadly epidemic? The answer lies in discussion, as well as immediate action.  Schools should advertise counseling services, doctors should pay close attention to symptoms of mental illness, and our children should grow up knowing that emotions are not a taboo.

Eating disorders can be hard to spot in children. Like most mental health issues, they are frequently dismissed. Someone’s son is a picky eater, he’s sensitive, or he’s “being difficult.” Teachers and even healthcare professionals are not always properly trained to identify and treat eating disorders. In many eating disorder inpatient wards, children aren’t even allowed to enter as visitors – so where do they go as patients? Bodies and minds can fail as a consequence of the development of eating disorders. With proper treatment, 60% of sufferers can make a full recovery. Without it, 20% and counting will die from medical complications, including suicide.

Inpatient and outpatient programs must be ready to accept children, and communities must be held accountable for prevention. If a child is neglected by a healthcare provider, dismissed by a school counselor or misunderstood by a teacher they confide in, it could cost them their life. Treatment is multi-dimensional. A patient has to receive proper medical and mental help, as well as re-learn a basic life skill lost: how to eat again.

We are responsible for knowing the signs

Bullying is an all-too-common denominator in the development of pre-pubescent and adolescent children, and it’s often body-based. The word “fat” becomes synonymous with “worthless,” “stupid,” and other negative terms that the child will internalize. The more their disorder manifests, with every meal they skip or exercise they overdo, the further their minds can spiral into devastating isolation. Neglecting proper education on eating disorders and related mental illnesses means few healthcare providers know what to do when a child is in pain, and fewer counselors know who to refer them to.

Eating disorder red flags in children include:

  • A sudden obsession with food – its caloric value, nutritional data and any information on the topic becomes both repulsive and fascinating.
  • Disturbed eating habits such as eating in secret, excessive chewing (or chewing and spitting), cutting food into tiny bites and taking excessive amounts of time to finish a meal.
  • Intense fear of becoming overweight, which can have an incredibly fluid definition to the child.
  • Dieting even when already a healthy weight, or underweight
  • Perfectionism, which often develops in children enrolled in demanding sports or academic programs that involve a high stress and competitive atmosphere.
  • Reporting problems at school or home. Bullying especially is a large contributor to deteriorating mental health, and can lead to the eventual development of an eating disorder and/or depression.

Intervention is crucial. A child is a work in progress, and an eating disorder is a mental health condition that must be addressed, along with any comorbid conditions. Pediatric depression and trauma issues are serious. They can follow into adulthood if not treated correctly and promptly – or the child may not make it to adulthood at all. At the Law Offices of Skip Simpson, we know that our youth need to be cherished and cared for, not to waste away or be taken by preventable suicide. We are dedicated to bringing justice to the void neglect has left. Contact us today.

Suicide and Bullying Among LGBTQ+ Youth: A New Law to Help Protect

Are protective laws really working?Suicide and Bullying Among LGBTQ+ Youth: A New Law to Help Protect

Over 700,000 LGBT adults and more than 158,000 LGBT youth live in Texas. They are doctors, store clerks, parents and students. Just as many are in shelters, estranged from family and friends and at extreme risk for the tragedies of a harsh and often short life. All face challenges based solely on who they love, and who they are.

Some lawmakers want to pass bills dictating public bathroom use in public schools and strip protections from LGBT students. Their health and sex education needs are not being met in school, and that’s true in the adult world as well, where there is a severe shortage of accessible mental and physical healthcare for trans and queer individuals. A bill introduced in 2016 even suggested that outing LGBT+ students to their families and peers should go hand in hand with one that previously allowed students’ concerns relating to gender identity (like bathroom use to be addressed) privately on a case-by-case basis.

The problem is, if students are not out on their own terms, there is most likely a good reason for it. As it stands, 40% of homeless youth report as LGBTQIA identifying. According to a 2015 GLSEN study on National School Climate, 66.2% of queer students felt discriminated against at school due to their orientation. Students who face these high rates of discrimination are more likely to miss school as a result.

They want to avoid bias, harsh language, bullies, and the mental anguish that should never jeopardize education. As they are tormented, we lose them. LGBT+ identifying youth are five times more likely to attempt suicide than their straight peers. The Law Offices of Skip Simpson advocates for all who have sadly died by suicide, and the loved ones left behind.

Sticks and Stones: The Effects of Bullying

Recently, David’s Law was put into effect. Following the tragic death of a student from Alamo Heights due to bullying, the law is meant to hold school districts responsible for the abhorrent and deadly behavior of students on campus, and online. Cyberbullying kills: it has taken the life of a 12-year-old cheerleader, among too many others.

The law, decided upon after the main source of bullying was discovered to be via text messages, covers bullying on a cell phone, computer, camera, messenger apps, texts and social media. If this occurs on school property, during a school activity or on a school bus, punishments can be meted out. In addition, if such actions disrupt a student’s access to education or disrupts school activities, the measures of the law can be applied.

LGBT youth are at risk

Without a society that accepts who they are, many youth and young adults who are discovering their identities may find themselves met with more opposition and anger as they dare venture into expressing and embracing their honest selves. Using the bathroom if not given a unisex option can become a matter of personal safety. Students affected by harmful legislature will see headlines like this one from USA Today: “In Texas: ‘It’s an all-out assault on LGBT people’“ detailing the conflicting bathroom bills that would affect the trans population tremendously. This is the material our queer youth have to look up to, the future they’re presented.

The mental health of LGBT youth requires special attention, but not all have access to counseling, or remain in the closet out of fear. Without help, many families are left wondering what went wrong, what could have been prevented, and why schools took such little action. Recently, advocates for LGBT youth and rights have spoken out in Connecticut after suicides by trans and gay teens this summer.

One activist was quoted as saying: “To sit in front of a child who looks you in the eye and says, ‘I just want to die. Why should I live? The bullying is not going to stop.’ It is heartbreaking.”

The numbers only get higher

The National Transgender Discrimination Survey showed that about 41% of the trans population attempt suicide.

  • The CDC presented research on students in grades 9-12 and found that LGBT students experienced higher rates of physical and sexual violence than straight students. Bullying was also found to be higher. Other findings of the study concluded that LGB teens were:
  • Twice as likely to experience physical and sexual dating violence
  • Twice as likely to experience online and school bullying
  • Four times more likely to attempt suicide
  • Five times as likely to have reported usage of illegal drugs and substances to cope

One Ohio college sophomore was punched in the face for kissing his boyfriend. The same student had almost died by suicide at the age of 16 after attempting to crash his car. In discovering his sexuality, he became afraid of the teasing and bullying that would follow when his peers found out. “That was the only way out…” he was quoted as saying in an article by NBC.

According to The Trevor Project, an outreach program for suicidal and troubled queer youth, each episode of LGBT harassment increases the likelihood of self-harming by 2.5 times, and one out of six students between grades 9-12 contemplated suicide seriously in the past year.

“I actually thought I was inhuman.”

Salem Whit, a teen from Spring Grove, Pennsylvania, recounted their experience with bullying surrounding their gender identity with those chilling words in an article published by The Atlantic. Coming out as transgender in high school was not easy, and they barely managed to graduate after skipping classes and dropping extracurricular activities in order to avoid the bullying. They even stopped speaking for a while, when dysphoria (extreme disconnect from body, gender, voice, presentation) triggered a hatred of their own voice. Their story is not unfamiliar.

The GLSEN report titled “Teasing to Torment: School Climate Revised,” pointed that LGBT youth have lower grades in middle and high school, and are not as likely to complete their education as their straight and cisgender (non-transgender) peers. Trauma, including PTSD, is not uncommon in these children who grow up in a world that, despite some improvements, still feels hostile towards them.

Recently, at a Houston bus stop, a poster was put up at a bus stop that encouraged LGBT+ people to kill themselves. The graphic included a hanging cartoon body with a rainbow heart on its chest, citing suicide statistics of gay, bisexual and trans people and encouraging others to “follow.” It is easy to see why youth would not feel welcome or comfortable when hate speech and bullying is so blatant.

Bullying Kills

A student at Robert E. Lee High School in Tyler died by suicide, previously asking to be home-schooled because the bullying he endured was too intense to endure at school.

David’s Law should provide some relief for families of bullied teens, given that it targets one of the most vicious forms of attack: cyberbullying. However, queer teens are still unlikely to speak out to friends and family, and schools do so little to prevent harassment. There are an increasing number of children involved in the current youth suicide epidemic – in 2016 there were 11 suicides that took the lives of those younger than 25 in Pennsylvania. Several of the victims cited bullying as what tainted their mindset in notes, social media, or it was heard from those who witnessed bullying in action. Social media is a particularly toxic environment that David’s Law hopes to help address. Going home and logging on to your own corner of the internet is no longer an escape or stress relief tactic for youth. It can be a death sentence. For queer youth, the odds of being victimized are even higher.

We can help

Struggling youth deserve to know that they belong, they are loved, and they have worth in the face of a society that hasn’t yet fully accepted them. Death by suicide is an epidemic among youth, and LGBTQIA+ youth are on the front lines of assault. With a large gap in access to healthcare, homelessness brought on by rejection, and even educations in jeopardy due to bullying, young people need to be protected and spoken for. At the Law Offices of Skip Simpson, our mission is just that-to bring justice to those who have suffered a loss that could and should have been prevented. Contact us today.

Trevor Project Lifeline for LGBT youth: 866-488-7356

David’s Law: Fighting Back Against Cyberbullying Suicides

When we send our children off to school in September, we don’t expect every day of this new year to end perfectly. We expect them to sigh and grumble about a teacher or assignment. We expect complaints. But sometimes, those complaints are really cries for help. Bullying at school is far too common, despite multiple programs and training sessions that hope to turn kids around.

The Law Offices of Skip Simpson is fiercely dedicated to seeking justice for those left behind after a victim dies of suicide. These deaths and tragic losses are preventable, and more must be done to hold involved parties accountable for negligent or harmful behavior that has ended a life. Thankfully, one law has been introduced that may help. The bill is named in memory of David Molak, a 16-year-old student in San Antonio who died from suicide after excruciating amounts of online bullying. David’s Law hopes to save lives by holding bullies accountable. Starting September 1st, cyberbullying in Texas schools is now illegal.David's Law - cyberbullying and teen suicide

No Escape For Today’s Youth

These days, almost every child has access to the internet, text messaging and/or social media. This means that even after the school’s doors are shut, bullies can still access their targets on a cell phone, tablet or laptop. Cyberbullying is brutal. As it stands, 15% of school absenteeism is directly related to fears of being bullied at school.

Schools have been accused of not taking enough preventative action, or indeed action at all when it comes to dealing with bullying. Recently, a 12-year-old cheerleader suffered extreme amounts of cyberbullying up until her life ended in June. Her mother cited Snapchat, texts and Instagram as just a few of the platforms used to harass her daughter. However, the school filed no harassment or bullying reports, even though the student’s mother contacted them about the bullying when it began at the beginning of the year.

David’s Law Brings Hope

David Molak, a Alamo Heights student, was a high achiever, close with family, and an active Eagle Scout. He was also the target of fierce bullying. It crushed his spirit, and he even transferred schools to try and avoid the bullying, but that only lasted a month and the damage was already done via a group text set on ridiculing and mocking David. He died by suicide soon after his transfer. His family was not quiet. A bill was put into action and passed in his honor. Built to take action against cyberbullying, which was previously not a targeted cause for concern, “David’s Law” targets school districts levels of responsibility as well as the definition of bullying.

Cyberbullying is defined as bullying via an electronic device such as phone, computer, camera, messenger apps, texts, social media platforms and websites. Examples include:

  • Creating fake profiles of students
  • Gossip and harmful rumors spread by social media
  • Spreading embarrassing pictures of a student taken without permission
  • Hurtful and menacing text or instant messages about someone

The Texas Education Code defines bullying as an action or pattern of behavior against a student that “exploits an imbalance of power and involves written or verbal expression, expression through electronic means or physical conduct.” Physical harm certainly falls under this definition, but so does any severe and persistent behavior that disrupts education for the student and harms their rights. Bullied students often miss school to avoid their tormentors, interrupting their education.

This bill does not apply to workplace bullying, only to:

  • Bullying on school property
  • During a school activity on or off school property
  • On a school bus

In addition, off-campus cyberbullying is covered if it:

  • The act disrupts a student’s access to education; or
  • The act disrupts activities related to the school, such as class or a sponsored activity or trip.

School Districts must be held to higher standards

In order to protect the lives of students, schools must acknowledge and address bullying problems as they arise. Lack of attention, and intervention, can easily lead to death. David’s Law requires the inclusion of cyberbullying in schools’ individual policies as well as implementing policies that:

  • Stop a student who is the victim of bullying from being punished when they have acted in self defense
  • Implements greater discipline for bullying a disabled student
  • Prohibits action retaliating against a person giving information about bullying
  • Making a way for students to anonymously report bullying incidents
  • And more

Parental notification is also written into the law. The involvement of aware parents is crucial to supporting a bullied student, and provides a larger aid network for them. With this law, cyberbullies can  face expulsion from school and even jail time. Restraining orders may also be granted.

Hope for Students

David’s Law is an incredibly important and necessary part of keeping students safe. Starting this September, bullies will have to think twice before terrorizing other students. In 2012, 88% of social media users in their teens have seen someone be cruel to another user, and 1 in 6 parents knew their child has been bullied. With how far technology has advanced in the past 5 years, we can only imagine the future of those statistics. And with David’s Law in place, we can only imagine how they might fall.

Forty Years Of Teen Suicides

We lose more of our teen girls every day

For every natural death, there are many that could have been prevented with proper professional intervention and medical treatment. Across the country, youths entering adolescence barely have time to cross into this crucial developmental period without encountering obstacles. Bullying at school. Troubles at home. Early onset of mental illness – or misdiagnosis that leads to treatment for a condition that doesn’t exist. Unfortunately, many of our teens slip through the cracks when it comes to mental healthcare. Conditions at school, and in healthcare facilities consistently fail to prevent suicides.

As a consequence, the suicide rate for teens has skyrocketed. This is a problem that not many know how to address, but suicide lawyer Skip Simpson knows it needs to be addressed. Our youth are dying; action must be taken.

“I tried to kill myself three times”

The powerful words of a West Philadelphia teenager sadly aren’t unfamiliar to many in her age group. Teens, especially girls, attempt suicide at an alarming rate. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention found in a recent study that the rate of suicide among teen girls reached a forty-year high as of 2015. Between 2007 and 2015, teen boys and young men saw a 30% increase in suicide rates as well. Many survivors’ narratives relate back to bullying, and begin with self-harm as the start of a deadly journey to try and cope with life’s events.

Cutting, burning, skin picking, hitting and starvation are common forms of self-harm. They are meant to alleviate the pressure of being unwell, or unable to cope with events inwardly. Self-inflicted pain is a grounding practice for many teens who otherwise feel “numb” or overwhelmed. Identifying and addressing these habits is critical to saving a life, but many go overlooked by school psychologists and healthcare providers. A cry for help is often dismissed (especially in the case of women) as a cry for attention.Teen Suicide Rates

Often, the response is too late.

Dying younger, faster

An increase in admissions to hospitals due to suicidal thoughts or self-harm has cut a path across the nation. At thirty-two children’s hospitals between 2008 and 2015, numbers went up and the number of healthy and happy youth went down. The associated study (covering children between the ages of 5 and 17) showed that the largest increases were with teenage girls. Our nation’s hospital beds were overflowing with children who dreamed of ending a life that had barely begun. What was being done to prevent this?

One case of a fourteen-year-old girl rocked the state of Texas. Overwhelmed by bullies, Brandy Vela shot herself in front of her family. Shockingly, the harassment only continued after her death with horrific comments on a memorial social media page that her family had to deal with.

In Ohio, an 11-year-old girl who had survived brain cancer died by suicide in her family home after enduring relentless teasing and taunts.

Bullying is especially prevalent among LGBT youth, who have already statistically experienced more violence than the average teen. According to the CDC, out of LGB youth surveyed:

  • 10% were threatened with a weapon at school
  • 34% were bullied
  • 28% had experienced cyberbullying
  • 23% had experienced sexual dating violence in the prior year
  • 18% had experienced physical dating violence
  • 18% had experienced non-consensual intimate relations during their lives

Transgender youth, as cited in a study by the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, experience a devastating rate of suicide attempts and self-injury. Thirty percent reported a history including at least one attempt. Girls in the LGBT community are often marginalized by society, peers and family. As a result of marginalization and lack of intervention, we lose them.

The Substance of Suicide

Teens are no stranger to the national opioid crisis, and a common method of suicide involved overdose. Teen drug overdose deaths rose from 3.1 deaths per 100,000 teens in 2014 to 3.7 per 100,000 in 2015. A 19% increase in just the span of a year is not just a problem, but an epidemic. Many teens use drugs to self-medicate, or overdose on ones that they have been prescribed. Some have been prescribed drugs that have come with black box warnings from the FDA.

Intervening sooner rather than later

Completing a suicide involves a series of steps. Which one is being missed? School counselors may miss signs of self-harm, therapists may quickly dismiss ideations as idle thoughts and attempts gain attention instead of indicators of a serious problem. Being admitted to hospital inpatient units is no guarantee that the healing process will take place. After all, improper suicide watch is a prevalent problem in hospitals. Every year, approximately 1800 patients are dying in these facilities because patients are not being carefully watched. Suicidal patients are consistently placed on observation levels which give the patient plenty of time to hang themselves.

Where do we turn for help?

Every day we are given opportunities to show kindness to people around us. Our friends and family members need a word of encouragement or just a smile will help—instead of scowls. One powerful antidote to suicide is hope—hope that someone cares for and loves us.

Suicide lawyer Skip Simpson has dedicated his career to identifying and holding responsible parties that do not adequately provide proper healthcare in these crucial times. Our teens are a thriving generation who should live their lives fully. If you or someone you know has experienced a loss due to suicide that could have been prevented, contact us.

Opening the Black Box

The dangers of mixing opioids and benzodiazepines in prescriptions

Psychiatric medication and treatment for disorders have come a long way since the days of crude lobotomies and other primitive forms of treatment. Medications and therapy treatments are constantly evolving, being tested, and being put on the market for those with brain disorders to be prescribed hoping to alleviate their suffering. However, the field of medicine has a long way to go.Suicide By Opioid Lawyer

A brain disorder is not a common cold. It cannot be cured with a simple order to take medication twice daily for a week, and there is no aisle for it in the local drugstore. A complex cocktail of drugs is often given to the suffering party and, over time, is updated and adjusted. Many folks are on multiple drugs at once, and many prescribing parties do not always make a combination safe for the patient. This type of malpractice can be fatal in the worst of ways: an attempt at treatment ending in an attempt at (or completed) suicide. A common, deadly happening is when opioids (painkillers) and benzodiazepines (anti-anxiety drugs) are mixed.

The loved ones of those left behind go through unimaginable suffering and pain when a suicide occurs. The loss is a profound and deeply felt one, especially when it could have been prevented with proper prescribing and care.

The FDA’s Pandora’s Box

A “black box” warning is FDA language for the strictest warning that can be placed on a prescription drug, meant to draw direct attention to a serious risk. Here, these labels should be affixed to popular painkillers such as OxyContin and Vicodin (opioids) and anti-anxiety drugs known as benzodiazepines such as Ativan, Klonopin and Xanax. It has been said by the director of Rhode Island’s Department of Health there is a “moral and professional obligation to be transparent about the risks and be cautious when prescribing the drugs to patients” as mixing the two can have fatal consequences.

Informed patient consent is vital when treating any illness, and mental health is a fragile umbrella that encompasses many disorders extremely sensitive to medication. It is the provider’s responsibility to know what medications their patient is taking, understand how they interact, and make sure they fully know of the risks . Failure to do so could cost a patient’s life.

Depressing the Central Nervous System

The main problem with mixing these two drugs comes from the fact that both act as CNS type medications-central nervous system depressants. This means that both can slow down heart rate and breathing. Many people who take these drugs are sensitive to their effects, which decreases the amount needed for a fatal overdose.

This warning would affect hundreds of products for patients trying to manage pain and anxiety, seizures and insomnia. Besides being a deadly combination on their own, the two categories of medication are highly addictive. In treatment, a provider may make an at-risk addict out of their patient who may ultimately die by suicide.

Finding help

Guidelines warn doctors of the dangers of prescribing the drugs together. Substantial increases in overdoses and suicide should be warning enough. Some prescribers do not heed the warnings, meaning that many families are left with empty seats at the dinner table, and patients with easy access to a dangerous combination of drugs that can all too easily lead to overdose.

I formerly was a federal prosecutor for the department of justice specializing in organized crime-narcotics. I learned that some physicians joined big Pharma in raking in profits not to help patients, but to help themselves.  I am pleased that the Drug Enforcement agency is working hard every day and night to put these crooks in jail.

Loved ones may be asking themselves where to turn next, and thankfully the answer is simple. Contact us at the Law Offices of Skip Simpson today to schedule a free consultation about your loss, your case, and your first steps towards recovery.

PTSD And Young Veteran Suicide

Soldier Suffering With Stress Talking To CounselorAs the rate of veteran suicide rate increases, awareness and action are slow to follow.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder affects scores of Americans, a hefty number of them veterans. The severity of the disorder can range from flashbacks, panic attacks triggered by sounds, tactile sensations, or even certain words to insomnia and self-destructive behaviors. PTSD, as it is commonly known, is harsh on the life of a homebound veteran, and often requires therapy and/or medication to assist in rehabilitation—and NOW.

Holding a job can be difficult, and this affects income and ability to provide oneself with housing and proper accommodations. This is why many people with PTSD, especially veterans, are at risk for homelessness. Among mental illnesses plaguing the homeless, PTSD is one of the most common. When left improperly treated, or not treated , self-destructive behavior caused by PTSD can cause suicide.

At least 22 veterans are lost to suicide daily according to 2014 studies, especially young males under 30. Young veterans are twice as likely to have their lives ended by suicide than civilian men in the same age range.

What is PTSD?

Mental illnesses manifest physically and through behavioral symptoms. To properly treat Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, it must be understood by professionals. It usually comes from a traumatic event, cluster of events, or prolonged trauma that severely affects natural stress responses. It is often a lifelong problem and can affect a veteran’s life from the moment they return home. Symptoms include:

  • Flashbacks
  • Insomnia and nightmares relating to the event
  • Agitation and hostility
  • Hypervigilance
  • Unwanted thoughts
  • Some may even experience hallucinations and hear voices

When veterans are exposed to high-stress situations or witness a devastating event (especially if they are already predisposed to anxiety or stress responses) they become at risk for developing PTSD. In flashbacks, they may physically or emotionally relive the event, or disassociate and believe they are back at the scene. In severe cases, patients may hear intrusive voices that promote self-destructive and out of character behavior.

How does it affect the brain?

When stressed, our brain signals our body to respond. Pupils dilate, muscles become stiff, and we think faster while becoming more vigilant. For most people, this is a temporary state. But for people with PTSD, the brain can almost constantly be in a state of “fight or flight” thanks to the release of the stress hormone cortisol. Chronic stress can even damage the physical brain structure.

The amygdala is a part of the brain that contributes to the control of a fight or flight response. Normally, parts of our brain that contribute to higher, more logical ways of thinking can calm us down. For example, thunder might frighten some with its sudden noise, but logic may calm us by remembering that thunder is just a noise that does not pose direct harm. In someone with impaired access to that thinking with an overactive amygdala and PTSD, the noise may remind them of the sound of combat and trigger a flashback.

Brain Cross-section with labels

PTSD also affects the memory. The hippocampus is another part of the brain involved in memory. It can help provide some logical context to the current stressful circumstances and calm the stress response. Affected by the disorder, it may not be able to perform those duties. In younger veterans, the brain may still be developing, making this impact even more powerful and dealing a harsh blow to readjusting to civilian life. This is one reason the young veteran suicide rate is so high.

Veterans’ Health

Returning troops suffer from PTSD at a rate of 15%, and have to wait to see specialists. The VHA currently has hundreds of thousands of claims left unprocessed as a backlog, making access to much needed treatment incredibly difficult. Private practitioners, if veterans can reach them, may not be able to properly treat the unique experiences of veterans, and inpatient units may not prevent an attempted suicide due to lack of quality care, poor staffing and leadership. Without proper coordination, attention and compassion, veterans in inpatient units can die a preventable death. Failing to prevent suicide is something providers must be held accountable, especially for veterans returning from duty.

Action can prevent suicide. Enrollment in the VHA has proven to help, as veterans have access to support and care, and a community. But funding and direction towards these resources is still lacking. Some veterans are simply brought home and left without direction, or on a long waiting list. Action can save lives, and our veterans deserve the treatment they need to make up for what they’ve lost in the line of duty. Some veterans have even died by suicide while waiting to receive mental health treatment. The lines are simply too long, and the stigma surrounding mental illness remains a problem. Work must be done to dismiss the myths that PTSD is a form of weakness and fragility-it is a wound that must be cared for. Many veterans are falling through the cracks of the mental health system, resulting in suicides.

VA’s have attempted to help the overload problem with access to crisis centers and community service boards, but these treatments are inadequate to address a long-term problem, and even they have a backlog. They are understaffed and underfunded, and as a result, veterans suffer and die.

Skip Simpson says “there is no urgency to fix the mental health problems for our vets.  The delays our vets experience exacerbate PTSD—stress does that. Trying to navigate a system while suffering from a mental illness is tough. Lots of ‘happy talk’ about the vet’s welfare is disgusting.  One can imagine what the young man or woman– fighting to live– thinks when he or she watches the confusion in Washington D.C. It seems the politicians think only of themselves and not those they are sworn to serve.”

We can help

If you or someone you know has lost a loved one to veteran suicide, we’re here for you. Suicide is preventable with the right care, and failing to provide it can cause tragedy. At the Law Offices of Skip Simpson, we offer a free case evaluation to survivors suffering and looking for answers for those held accountable. Help should be given, not chased down with no results. Our veterans have protected us, and now it is the system’s responsibility to give back. How many times have we heard those words?   When the vet hears them with no action, it is just another reason to give up. Contact us today to take the first step towards justice.

Safe And Sound: The Inpatient View of Care and Suicide

A patients’ view of their quality of care is linked to fatalities

We expect inpatient facilities to offer a high quality of care and focus on healing for the patients placed in their charge. Under any circumstance, a patient deserves to have a successful recovery, and not have to worry about their mental state deteriorating while in medical care. Unfortunately, that is not the reality often, and facilities need more eyes on the patient. Many are underfunded, Inpatient Suicide Attorneystaff underpaid and not motivated to perform delicate tasks that could mean life or death for a patient. A staff with a cold demeanor, a “locked” versus “unlocked” facility, and an overall level of safety have been shown to contribute to the level of suicides in inpatient units.

For every suicide, there is a family suffering the effects. One less seat at the dinner table, one less presence around the holidays. Our psychiatric healthcare system is advanced in some ways, but much still must be done, especially to address staff not fully engaged with patients. That’s where The Law Offices of Skip Simpson can help. Every patient and their loved ones have the right to be compensated for their losses due to malpractice.  Skip Simpson says: “Money is not the only issue; it is also holding health care providers accountable. Clients want to know what went wrong and why no one will tell them what went wrong—why do they cover up their bad decisions about protecting their loved ones?  What steps are being taken to fix the problem so it does not happen again?”

What responsibilities do staff undertake?

Keeping a patient stable and in sound mind as well as body is crucial to preventing a death by suicide while in the care of America’s nurses and psychiatric staff. As it stands, the American Psychiatric Nurses Association has care guidelines that outline the expectations and goals of each nurse in relation to their treatment of a patient. These are all integral to stabilizing someone at the risk of suicide, or suffering from a psychiatric condition . The goals include:

  • Manages their own personal reactions, attitudes and beliefs.
  • Is authentic in their intent to help
  • Recognizes the barrier between a patient’s desire to end pain via suicide and the nurse’s desire to help.
  • Views each patient as an individual
  • Makes a realistic assessment for the care of a suicidal, or potentially suicidal patient.

Nurses and healthcare staff take on quite a large role when they work in an inpatient unit or psychiatric facility. Someone’s life is literally in their hands. And how the patient interprets the level of care given to them is critical.

How do patients view their safety?

A suicidal, or potentially suicidal patient can easily be left behind in recovery if the proper care isn’t administered. A patient may want to end their psychological pain, which has become unbearable and affected their life to where every waking moment is sheer torture. This can be prevented if we recognize mental health as on par in the need for proper care as physical health. Patients with severe illnesses, such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, PTSD, and eating disorders (the mental aspect of which must be addressed to protect the physical) deserve treatment personalized, and demonstrates true care and compassion.

In a study from 2012, there were 35,000 or more suicides per year in the US, with about 1800 being inpatient suicides; the CDC does not count these inpatient suicides, so only guesses are made. Of those, 75% occurred in the patient’s bedroom, a place where they are afforded a little privacy. Suicide watches are implemented, but without proper preventive care, a patient may still feel unsafe and isolated. When one feels this way, alone and in pain, a compassionate staff can make a huge difference in their recovery. What is worrisome is these suicides usually play out near the staff.

Bonds with staff and nurses are also important to help the patient regain and retain a state of mind conducive to mental healing. When provided with a “care team” (usually comprised of medical staff and a therapist, among others) or even caregivers they feel they can turn to in times of need, patients may turn to them for much-needed aid instead of a closed door. Feeling safe is imperative. A psychological issue or mental illness often contributes to a feeling of loneliness. When your mind plagues you, and you are hospitalized, you are entitled to the chance to feel safe. With a gap in this much-needed care, recovery can be difficult. And this slipup by the care system can prove fatal.

A patient’s needs

According to another study, the data extracted from surveys and record pulls showed that patients had a specified set of needs, most of which matched up with the list of care guidelines provided by the American Psychological Nurses Association. The sick must be tended to for them to recuperate and live productive lives, and their needs must be acknowledged.

  • “Lack of acknowledgment from observers” – a cold and neglectful staff can give the impression (often correctly) that the patient is not cared about, and further deepens their mental wounds. They may see themselves as a burden, or as if they deserved to be ignored. This only worsens suicidal thoughts.
  • Feelings of objectification – being observed without actual interaction can further impede a patient’s feeling of borderline imprisonment. Being poked and prodded at does nothing for their health. Without support, patients’ conditions may worsen.

According to Today’s Hospitalist, making a standard assessment, checking in on patients, not being distracted during work (reading books, writing, seeming disinterested, etc.) and making a joint effort between all providers can save lives. Placing patients on a medical unit where they can receive two forms of support and care at the same time may also be an incentive worth pursuing. Caregivers must uphold their titles and provide adequate care to the sick.

Don’t lose any more

A patient’s safety is a patient’s life, and they must view it as worthy of care and protection. When this is taken from their care, or neglected altogether, it can cause fatal consequences. Inpatient units see too many suicides that could be prevented by a caring staff, a bond with someone who feels alone and without compassion they may have been lacking for a long period of time. Suicidal patients are in pain, and the job of a caregiver is to help treat that pain, not make it worse.

Leaders set the tone and are directly responsible for poor care in their facilities.

If you or a loved one have suffered a loss as the result of negligence of malpractice in an inpatient unit, let us know. Contact us for a free case evaluation, and we will help you get the justice you deserve.

Study Shows Decade-Long Rise In Rural Suicides

Suicides are on the rise nationwide, and have been for some time. But no other part of America feels that increase quite as much as rural America.

A recent study published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention examined suicide rates throughout the United States between 1999 and 2015. While suicide rates increased nationally during this time period and reached their highest overall rate in 2015, smaller communities and rural areas saw the acceleration beginning in 2007-2008.

Rural areas have long had higher suicide rates than urban areas, and that trend has only gotten worse in the last decade. In order to protect the lives of people at risk of dying by suicide, we need to understand the risk factors that contribute to suicide rates in rural areas.

Lack of access to care, limited resources put rural residents at risk

Nationwide, we have an under-funded and under-equipped mental health system that fails to adequately care for people at risk of suicide. In rural areas, where the healthcare system is stretched thin to begin with, competent psychiatrists and mental health professionals are almost non-existent.rural suicide lawyer

Politico recently reported on this lack of service with an account from an emergency room doctor in a small, rural community in Georgia, who often needs to care for patients at risk of suicide while also attending to those with acute medical issues. Because psychiatric hospitals rarely have beds available, these patients are left to board at the ER for days or weeks on end, receiving little if any treatment from medical professionals who are undoubtedly well-intentioned, but not trained or equipped to adequately care for individuals in crisis.  Good intentions don’t count; solid training in suicide prevention does.

And even when care is available, many people in rural communities find that it is inadequate to meet their needs. For example, many rural residents are still without health insurance and are unable to afford medications or follow-up care. Time and distance can also be prohibitive, as even if the patient can get an appointment, the nearest specialist may be hours away.

Telecommunications is part of the answer

In the day of telecommunications, it is troubling that lack of access to care is a problem for the mental health industry. Imagine you or your loved one is suicidal somewhere in rural America.  You are taken by paramedics or police to the nearest ER, where you are told that there are no mental health providers around. But luckily, the ER has videoconferencing equipment connecting it to psychiatry departments based in larger hospitals in other cities. These mental health providers are then able to screen for suicide and recommend proper interventions, all from a distance. In this way, telecommunication technology in healthcare or “telemedicine” could play a key role in saving the life of someone who needs to be protected from suicide, but is too far away from mental health specialists to physically reach this needed critical care.

How about proper training for emergency department physicians?

Telecommunications may not even be needed if the rural emergency room physician is properly trained in screening for suicide; they should be. If they are not they should demand the training from their medical schools.  What part of “emergency” do the medical schools not understand? The Suicide Prevention Resource Center has made training easy for the emergency physician. There is a “Consensus Guide for Emergency Departments” which trains the emergency doctor on what to do when a patient at risk for suicide presents at the emergency department.  Google it!

A comprehensive approach is needed to help prevent rural suicides

Other factors not directly related to medical care can also contribute to risk of suicide. Historically, rural residents have depended on friends and family for support; as families grow further apart, they may be left with increased stress and fewer options, especially in an economy that is increasingly unfavorable. There’s a strong stigma against seeking help with mental health issues in many rural areas that can be a further impediment to treatment, even when treatment is available. Moreover, there is a perception that inhabitants of rural communities are still acceptable targets for disrespect from city dwellers, which can add literal insult to injury in too many cases.

Because so many risk factors contribute to rural suicides, there is no single solution that can be identified to protect the lives of people at risk. Rather, a comprehensive strategy is needed to improve access to care, provide adequate training and resources for care providers, and encourage community engagement and social connectedness to help rural residents access the resources they need to mitigate the risk of dying by suicide.

In places where mental health resources are limited, friends and family members of people struggling with suicidal ideation need to be the first line of defense. They need to understand the warning signs, be vigilant, and advocate for their loved ones – and understand that there is no shame in seeking help.

An awesome place for gate-keeper training is the QPR institute. See http://www.qprinstitute.com. The QPR training will give you and your loved ones a great chance to live until professional help arrives, like CPR. By “professional help” I mean professional trained in suicide prevention; those who know how to properly assess for suicide and take the correct interventions to protect life.