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Recognizing National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month

Suicide Prevention Awareness Month Vector Illustration. Good for greeting card, poster and banner

Every September, mental health advocates, prevention organizations, community members, peers, and survivors join together for National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month to help raise awareness of a problem that has led to more than 40,000 deaths last year in America.

Like many other conditions, suicidal ideation is relatively common but is rarely discussed due to an unfair stigma that surrounds the topic. One of the goals of National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month is to remove that stigma and enable people to ask if their friends and loved ones are experiencing suicidal ideation so they can discuss their feelings without judgment.

Research has shown that people who are thinking about suicide feel relieved when they are asked about it in a caring way. Findings suggest that acknowledging suicidal thoughts decreases a person’s risk of suicide, rather than increasing it.

Raising awareness

In addition, National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month is a time to inform the public about some of the facts about suicide in America: Here are some of the facts and figures that the National Alliance on Mental Health, has publicized on its website.

• 78% of all people who die by suicide are male.

• Although more women than men attempt suicide, men are nearly 4x more likely to die by suicide.

• Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death among people ages 10 to 34 and the 10th leading cause of death overall in the U.S.

• The overall suicide rate in the U.S. has increased by 35% since 1999.

• 46% of people who die by suicide had a diagnosed mental health condition.

• While nearly half of individuals who die by suicide have a diagnosed mental health condition, research shows that 90% experienced symptoms.

• Lesbian, gay and bisexual youth are 4x more likely to attempt suicide than straight youth.

• Transgender adults are nearly 12x more likely to attempt suicide than the general population.

One of the best resources available for people experiencing suicidal ideations is the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, (1-800-273-8255), a 24-hour confidential and anonymous service for individuals to discuss how they are feeling with trained call-takers. The Lifeline is working to focus on ways people can help those they care about.

According to the NSPL, one of the best ways to help is to simply be there and listen to someone speak about suicide without judgment. Their message during National Suicide Prevention Month is #BeThe1To as in: be the one to be there for someone in need.

Legal help is available

Despite all efforts at prevention, too many people continue to lose loved ones to suicide completion. The Law Offices of Skip Simpson has the experience and knowledge to investigate the circumstances of suicide and advise families on how to proceed during an extraordinarily difficult time. Although our law firm is based in Texas, we serve clients nationwide, so if you have suffered the loss of a loved one, contact attorney Skip Simpson today to learn more about your legal rights and options.

The Importance of Suicide Prevention Education

High school students and teenagers in the classroom at their high school

Although one might believe that teaching kids how to help prevent their classmates from attempting suicide might be a top priority, legislators have balked at the opportunity to mandate suicide prevention education in schools—even in some states where suicide is relatively rampant.

In July, the Wyoming Legislature declined to pass a proposed bill that would have made suicide prevention education a requirement for all students in public schools. The legislature made this decision even though Wyoming currently has the highest suicide rate in the nation at 29 suicides each year per 100,000 residents.

“We’ve run into challenges where legislators are reluctant to pass an unfunded mandate,” said Nicole Gibson, the senior director for state policy and grassroots advocacy at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

For some perspective, Wyoming’s suicide rate is more than double the national average, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The state’s legislature does not deny that suicide is a problem for the state, but they believe that local control of educational content is more important. As such, legislators refused to pass the mandate, and instead, they left the decision to individual school boards.

Whose responsibility is it?

Some indicated that suicide prevention should be the responsibility of churches and families, others feel it’s a concern for the state department of health and still, others think school is a fine place to teach these skills but were reluctant to increase the workload of teachers. Some critics have pointed out that Wyoming has a history of passing unfunded mandates in schools, pointing out a law passed in 2018 that required schools to teach computer science.

The purpose of suicide prevention education is to help students notice when signs of suicidal ideation are present in their classmates and help them understand how to talk and listen to them in an empathetic matter and to show them resources that suicidal people can turn to for help, such as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255). The goal is to give the person feeling suicidal thoughts hope that better days are coming and life is worth living. CDC Research has shown that intervention can make a difference and lower suicide rates.

“Young people really go to their peers for so much and really trust their peers, maybe more so than adults, depending on their age,” said Gibson. “So making sure that [young people] are empowered to reach out for help when they notice those warning signs is so important. It’s a sign of strength to seek help, it’s a sign of strength to reach out.”

It doesn’t always work in every case, as suicide is quite complicated. It can occur for a vast number of reasons and no singular strategy of suicide prevention can guarantee success. However, it is clear that something needs to be done to bring the rate of suicide down in a state like Wyoming.

Currently, 12 states, including Texas and Vermont, require that education on suicide awareness and prevention be included in the curriculum, the foundation has been working to increase this number as part of its work.

See how an attorney can help you

The Law Offices of Skip Simpson has the experience and knowledge to investigate the circumstances of suicide and advise families on how to proceed during an extraordinarily difficult time. Although the law firm is based in Texas, it serves clients nationwide, so if you have suffered the loss of a loved one who was attending a school without any suicide prevention education, contact attorney Skip Simpson today.

Cannabis Use & Suicide in Young Adults

closeup of a teen lighting a marijuana cigarette

With the growing popularity of cannabis usage throughout America as a result of the legalization of cannabis in 18 states, further research has been conducted into some of the effects of marijuana usage on people’s mental health. One such study conducted by The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) showed that there may be an association between cannabis usage and suicidal ideation.

“Using nationally representative data, we found that trends in suicidal ideation, plan, and attempt varied by the pattern of cannabis use … among adults aged 18 to 34 years from 2008 to 2019, a time of marked increases in both cannabis use and suicidality,” the authors wrote in the study.

Key takeaways from the survey

Roughly 280,000 adults were surveyed for this study, which showed marked increases in suicidal ideation among adults who reported using cannabis on a daily basis across nearly all demographic groups and subgroups, high school students being the sole exception to the observed trend. Groups with particularly high increases included non-Hispanic Black participants and women. Even participants who said they didn’t use cannabis every day—or fewer than 300 days per year—”were more likely to have suicidal ideation and to plan or attempt suicide than those who did not use the drug at all,” the researchers found.

“From 2008 to 2019, suicidal ideation, plan, and attempt increased 40% to 60% over increases ascribed to cannabis use and a major depressive episode. Future research is needed to examine this increase in suicidality and to determine whether it is due to cannabis use or overlapping risk factors,” the research stated.

Cannabis use has increased over time

During the past decade, cannabis use among US adults has increased markedly. From 2008 to 2019, the number of adults with past-year cannabis use doubled from 22.6 million to 45.0 million. In parallel, the number of adults with cannabis use disorder (CUD) increased from 3.4 million to 4.1 million, and adults with daily or near-daily cannabis use (hereafter daily cannabis use) nearly tripled from 3.6 million to 9.8 million.

A  parallel increase in suicidality (ideation, plan, attempt, and death) was also noted among adults using cannabis. However, associations between cannabis use and suicidality among young adults are still poorly understood. While the study showed an association between suicidality and cannabis use, it did not show direct causation between them, leading researchers to suggest further study into the effects of cannabis.

“While we cannot establish that cannabis use caused the increased suicidality we observed in this study, these associations warrant further research, especially given the great burden of suicide on young adults,” said US National Institute on Drug Abuse Director Dr. Nora Volkow, the study’s senior author, in a statement.

Find out how a lawyer can help you

The Law Offices of Skip Simpson has the experience and knowledge to investigate the circumstances of a suicide and advise families on how to proceed during an extraordinarily difficult time. Although the law firm is based in Texas, it serves clients nationwide, so if you have suffered the loss of a loved one who was a heavy user of cannabis, contact attorney Skip Simpson today.

LGBTQ Youth Face Unique Mental Health Challenges

Youth holding a rainbow pride poster

The past year or so has been difficult for just about everyone, but it has been an especially challenging time for groups of people that were already facing unique mental health challenges, such as the LGBTQ community.

LGBTQ Youth Mental Health Survey

The Trevor Project 2021 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health collected data on how the past year of living through the COVID-19 pandemic has had on LGBTQ youth. What they found provided a glimpse into the experiences and difficulties that they were going through and how many of them contemplated ending their lives as a result.

Here are some key findings:

  1. Researchers found that 42% of LGBTQ youth seriously contemplated killing themselves, including more than half of transgender and non-binary youths. Of those, 12% of white youth attempted suicide, 21% of Black youth, 21% of multiracial youth, 18% of Latinx youth, and 12% of Asian/Pacific Islander youth.
  2. Seventy percent of people surveyed said they categorized their mental health as “poor” during most if not all of the past year, and over 80% of LGBTQ youth surveyed stated that the pandemic had made their living situation more stressful, especially since only about one-third of those surveyed said that their household was LGBTQ supporting.
  3. Aside from the obvious increase in stress caused by a deadly disease that killed more than half a million people, the political situation during 2020 was also noted as a major source of stress in the LGBTQ community: 94% of respondents to the survey reported that recent politics had negatively impacted their mental health.
  4. For transgender and non-binary youths, the survey found that one of the largest factors that affected suicide attempts was if people in their household were willing to respect their pronouns. Those who did not have their pronouns respected were found to have attempted suicide at double the rate of those whose pronouns were respected.

The mission of The Trevor Project’s Research Department is to produce and use innovative research that brings new knowledge and clinical implications to the field of suicidology and LGBTQ youth mental health. The complete survey results along with the methodology used to conduct the survey can be found here.

How You Can Get the Help You Need

Perhaps one of the most disturbing findings in the survey was that 48% of respondents said that they would have wanted to get counseling from a mental health professional but could not gain access to one during the past year. In times of mental crisis and instability, access to appropriate mental health professionals can sometimes quite literally be the difference between life and death.

At the Law Offices of Skip Simpson, our team has the experience, expertise, and knowledge to investigate the circumstances of suicide and help families and loved ones get through what is an extraordinarily difficult time. We serve clients nationwide, so if you have a loved one who was part of the LGBTQ community who died by suicide after receiving inadequate mental health care or harassment for their lifestyle choice, contact attorney Skip Simpson today.

Military Still Falls Short Treating War-Related Stress

Despite some improvements, service members remain at elevated risk of dying by suicide

Texas suicide lawyerA new study released February 18 shows that the U.S. military is struggling to provide adequate care for active-duty troops suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and clinical depression.

Conducted by RAND Corp., this study surveyed 40,000 cases, making it the largest ever of its kind. The results are chilling: Only a third of soldiers with PTSD and less than one in four soldiers with clinical depression receive even the minimum number of therapy sessions after their diagnosis.


According to military officials, the culprit is a lack of personnel. Commenting on the study, Brad Carson, the acting principal deputy undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, said, “We just don’t have enough mental health professionals to meet the demand.”

In addition, many service members are unaware of the mental health services available to them – or unwilling to seek help because of the persistent stigma associated with mental health. While the Department of Defense is working to reduce this stigma, a separate study also conducted by RAND Corp. found that some of their efforts may not be as effective as they could be. In particular, some of those stigma-reducing programs do not target service members who are already seeking mental health treatment.

Military treatment in vulnerable periods above national average

The study did find that the military is taking positive steps to treat at-risk service members during one of their most vulnerable times: immediately after discharging from inpatient facilities. During the first year after being released from hospital care, soldiers die by suicide at a rate of 264 per 100,000, more than 20 times above the national average.

According to the study, 86 percent of those with PTSD or depression were seen by a mental health specialist within seven days after discharging from a hospital, and that figure increased to 95 percent within the first 30 days. In this particular area, the military medical system is well ahead of the civilian system.

In part, the military’s success in this field is owed to a 2014 internal Army medical command memorandum, cited by the RAND Corp. study, that stated soldiers need to be seen within 72 hours of discharging from a hospital. Commanders were instructed to require soldiers to attend a make-up session if one is missed. Moreover, the memorandum established a policy of not discharging soldiers during weekends and holidays to avoid issues with losing track of follow-up care.

Even with more mental health professionals, the standard of care remains low

Another seemingly positive element is that the military has increased its staff of mental health professionals by 42 percent over the last seven years – 9,295 today compared to 6,546 in 2009.

However, increasing the number of staff has not necessarily improved the level of care. Many of the new mental health professionals lack experience; meanwhile, many experienced professionals have been forced into early retirement.

Suicide prevention attorney Skip Simpson, a 20-year military veteran, knows that many mental health professionals lack the necessary training to help people at risk of dying by suicide. This influx of inexperienced professionals means that the military medical system is even less likely to be able to recognize the warning signs of suicide and effectively intervene, leaving military personnel at elevated risk.

The study results show that, while the military is taking fairly effective steps to help soldiers when they are most imminently vulnerable to suicide, it is still struggling to provide the sort of early intervention and care that can prevent deaths from suicide in the long run.

Hospital Records Can be Invaluable Evidence After Inpatient Suicide

Texas suicide lawyerMental health facilities have obligations to psychiatric patients to keep them safe, particularly when patients are on suicide watch and there is a risk of death by suicide.  One of the duties in most facilities is simply to monitor patients who are at great risk to ensure they do not try to self-harm.  If a hospital has failed in any of its obligations to patients and inpatient suicide occurs as a result of this failure, it is possible to take legal action against the facility.

Hospitals can be held responsible for negligence in policies which lead to patients dying by suicide. If staff members fail to fulfill the obligations imposed upon them by their jobs, mental health facilities can also be held accountable due to these on-duty errors or the negligence of staff members in fulfilling work tasks.

Hospital records and other internal evidence from mental health facilities can prove invaluable in determining if the facility has lived up to its obligations or not.  An experienced inpatient suicide lawyer can assist family members of patients who died by suicide in obtaining necessary records to help prove negligence.

Video Surveillance Footage Helps to Show Staff Failure in Mental Health Facility

Naples News reported on one tragic case which illustrates how information a hospital collects can be used to help prove negligence after inpatient suicide occurs.  The case involved the suicide of a 51-year-old man who was in a psychiatric inpatient hospital. The man had been admitted because of feelings of paranoia, hopelessness, and depression. His admissions paperwork indicated he had been having suicidal thoughts.

During the time he was in the 103-bed facility, the 51-year-old man was quiet and didn’t participate in any activities or therapy sessions. Two days prior to his death, he asked to talk to a social worker and requested forms for a living will. The social worker didn’t ask the reason for this request, and did not report the request to anyone.   The patient’s doctor indicates he would have put the patient on immediate suicide watch if he had been aware a request for a living will was made.

Even though the patient was not on suicide watch, he was still supposed to be checked on every 15-minutes.  Unfortunately, though written paperwork indicated these checks had happened, surveillance footage from the hospital shows there were two checks missed in a row. Neither a 9:15 and a 9:30 check happened. By 9:45, when the 51-year-old patient was finally checked on, the patient had gone into the bathroom and hanged himself with a tied-up hospital gown.

There were numerous situations in this case where the hospital facility dropped the ball, from the social worker not reporting the living will to the 15-minute checks not being made. The surveillance evidence and the patient records including the living will help to show how the hospital facility fell short of its obligations.  A suicide lawyer can help family members to obtain this type of evidence to prove a mental health facility should be held accountable for lapses.


Inpatient Suicides Considered Most Preventable and Avoidable

Texas suicide lawyerApproximately six percent of deaths by suicide in the United States occur when patients are under care in a psychiatric hospital, a mental health facility, or a mental health unit of a hospital.  According to Psychiatric Times: “Inpatient suicides are viewed as the most avoidable and preventable because they occur in close proximity to staff.”


Understanding when and how these suicides occur is key to successful prevention of death by suicide. When psychiatric health professionals fail in effective monitoring and prevention, the facility where the patient was receiving treatment may be held accountable.

Understanding Death by Suicide in an Inpatient Setting

Psychiatric nurses in an inpatient facility generally experience a completed suicide every 2.5 years on average, although these suicides are widely considered the most preventable due to staff-member control of the environment and due to the greater control exercised over inpatients versus outpatients.  Why? See the end of this blog.

The greatest danger to patients of death by suicide occurs in unsupervised areas, and patients are most at risk at night or during hand-offs when one staff member leaves a shift and care transfers to another healthcare worker.  However, patients may die by suicide at any time when staff members fail to fulfill obligations to keep them safe.

The majority of deaths by suicide in psychiatric hospitals occur because of hanging, and 75 percent of the deaths occur in closets, bedrooms, or bathrooms of patient rooms—those hidden areas all nurses and hospital techs know about.  While suicide watch protocols are aimed at preventing these fatalities, they are failing. Why? The observation period is too long.  It takes approximately two minutes of hanging to have irreversible brain damage and five to six more minutes to die—either on the unit or on a respirator a few days later in another hospital where the patient has been transferred due to the emergency.   When the suicide watch protocol involves checking on the patient every 15 minutes (the time interval often selected), this allows sufficient time for the patient to successfully complete a suicide. More frequent monitoring of patients at risk for suicide is called for-usually one to one (where a staff member is within arm’s length) or line of sight monitoring.   In one study of patients who died by suicide in an inpatient facility, 51 percent of patients were being monitored on a 15-minute suicide observation protocol.

Inpatient facilities can also eliminate threats to patients by reducing patient access to tools and conditions which could facilitate death by suicide. For example, grab bars in showers and plumbing fixtures can be used by patients in an attempt to die by suicide.  Adding plates to grab bars and putting safeguards around plumbing fixtures, like stainless steel boxes, can help to eliminate environmental risks.

Staff members must also be able to recognize when patients are at the greatest danger of death by suicide.  Studies suggest in 60 percent of suicides among inpatients, the patient’s level of risk was not adequately determined by psychiatric professionals or the appropriate precautions were not taken based on the risk level identified.  Professional psychiatric staff must be accurate in diagnosing the level of suicide risk posed by each patient in an inpatient facility, and appropriate protocols must be followed to protect patients from harm based on their specific risk levels.

Skip Simpson says: “In a nut shell hospitals must stop providing suicidal patients with the means, time and opportunity to kill themselves. Patient safety is not the goal for these hospitals; it is profits. Simple patient safety rules will stop the suicides if greed is put to the side.”

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

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

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

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

College Students and Risks of Death by Suicide

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Closer Look at National Suicide Prevention Week

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


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

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

What is National Suicide Week?

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

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

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

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

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

A Dallas, TX suicide attorney at the Law Offices of Skip Simpson can help. Call (214) 618-8222 or visit to schedule a free case consultation.

Psychiatric Hospital Faces Loss of Funding After Death by Suicide

Texas suicide lawyerWhen someone is having thoughts of suicide, a psychiatric hospital should be a place where they are kept safe: it is the reason for they exist. Psychiatric hospitals must ensure their facilities provide no opportunity for patients to cause themselves harm when they are at risk of suicide. How can it be any other way? When a hospital fails in this duty and patients suffer an experienced suicide attorney can help families to pursue legal action to recover compensation for losses the facility’s carelessness causes. A patient has a right to safety; the patient’s family has a right to know their loved one is safe.

Besides civil action, regulators can, and should, also take action against hospitals that fail their patients. It is their job to protect us. When hospitals and regulators fail to protect us, it is the duty of juries to protect us—to make our communities safe.

Facilities providing mental healthcare are often state funded or receive federal funds through Medicaid and Medicare. States can threaten their funding, and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services can determine a facility should no longer continue to receive payments if it cannot provide safe patient care. Losing funding can have a major impact on whether the facility can continue operating.

Psychiatric Hospital Faces Loss of Funding

One facility at risk of losing its funding is Timberlawn Mental Health System, which is in Dallas. Officials at the facility were warned doorknobs in patient’s room might be used to hang themselves.  Despite the serious danger the door knobs presented, they were not replaced until February 19. This was two days after the first of safety inspections that occurred unannounced.

The door knobs were not the only problem. Inspections conducted by U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) uncovered “numerous safety problems,” according to the Dallas News.

On February 17 of last year, federal inspectors indicated there were shortcomings at the facility that left patients at Timberlawn in “immediate jeopardy.” This included things like having plastic liners in garbage cans, and telephone and electrical cords that presented a risk to psychiatric patients. Immediate jeopardy is the most serious warning CMS issues.

While the facility submitted a plan in March to remedy the issues, the changes the hospital indicated it would make came too late for one patient.  A 37-year-old who had checked herself into the facility when struggling with a dissociative disorder had died by suicide in December. Her death took place a full five months after the initial warnings about the doorknobs were issued to the facility.

Suicide attorney Skip Simpson from the Law Offices of Skip Simpson is representing the family and called failing to change the doorknobs “completely reckless.”  The Dallas Morning News quoted Simpson: “This hospital needs to go ahead and put a sign up in front of their building that says ‘Not safe for suicidal patients.”

The hospital’s reckless behavior has had a real cost. While it may make changes now, they are being forced to do so due to the threat of lost funding, those changes should have been made early so the facility could have better fulfilled its basic obligation to keep patients safe.

It should not have taken a threat to close the facility for this hospital to provide a safe environment of care: a culture of safety. Plenty of patient safety rules, for many, many years, have required psychiatric facilities to be safe. The Joint Commission requires patient safety. Doesn’t it just make sense? Texans like rules. They teach their children rules. They teach their children when rules are broken there are consequences.

Sadly a family with their daughter in this facility suffered the biggest consequence. Now Timberlawn will pay the consequences. It is just what happens in Texas. We like rules and folks playing by the rules; nothing new all over America.

Another thing we teach our children: “when you break a rule and it hurts someone or property: you make it right.” My mom said “Skip, you broke the window—admit it and pay for it.” It is just what good citizens do; yes, corporate citizens too. It is just the simple truth.