Suicide rates may increase amid the COVID-19 pandemic

Texas suicide lawyer

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

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

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

The role social distancing plays

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

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 People who experience suicide ideation may become increasingly withdrawn when a suicide risk arises.

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

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

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

Job loss and economic stress

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

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

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

Barriers to mental health treatment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Texas suicide lawyer

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

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

Mental health of college students disproportionately impacted

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

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

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

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

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

The social factor

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

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

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

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

Can telehealth methods help?

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

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

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

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

It is critical that colleges and medical professionals address mental health

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

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

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

Can we prevent deaths by suicide among first responders?

Texas suicide lawyer

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

These often include:

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

A link between first responders, PTSD

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Addressing the social stigma

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

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

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

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

Representing first responder families

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

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

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

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

Why technology can’t replace real suicide intervention

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

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

Flaws in suicide prevention apps

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

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

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

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

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

The study aimed to do two things:

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

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

These apps were also designed to:

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

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

What suicide prevention requires

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

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

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

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

Addressing the construction industry’s high rate of suicide

Texas suicide lawyer

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

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

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

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

Mental health: An on-the-job priority

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

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

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

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

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

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

The challenges of suicide prevention in the construction industry

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is filicide and how can it be prevented?

Texas suicide lawyer

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

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

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

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

What drives filicides among mothers?

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

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

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

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

Is postpartum depression a factor in filicides

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

Symptoms of postpartum depression often include:

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

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

How medical professionals can address maternal filicide and suicide

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1 in 5 adolescents engage in self-harm. What exactly is it and what can be done to prevent it?

Texas suicide lawyer

Self-harm is a method of regulating emotional pain and trauma, according to MayoClinic. While it is typically nonsuicidal, it can lead to a cycle of emotional pain and guilt, as well as potentially fatal injuries or death by suicide, if left untreated.

Self-harm often involves cutting, burning, self-hitting, piercing, and carving words on skin. Roughly 1 in 5 adolescents reportedly engage in self-harm or cutting at least once as a mode of comfort from emotional pain. Research suggests that self-harm is an indicator that an individual is at risk of dying by suicide.

Addressing historical challenges in diagnosing and treating self-harm

The reaction adolescents receive when seeking help after a bout of self-harm may do more harm than good, according to The New York Times. Self-harm is often treated as a symptom, rather than an individual diagnosis — leaving therapists and other medical professionals with little to offer in terms of treatment. Psychiatrists often diagnose conditions they see as an umbrella cause of self-harm, such as depression, bipolar disorder, or PTSD. Self-harm is not an attempt at suicide.

“It’s the only way you know to deal with intense insecurities or anger at yourself. Or you’re so numb as a result of depression, you can’t feel anything — and this is one thing you can feel,” said one adolescent.

In recent years, however, psychiatric researchers have scrutinized several factors that can lead to self-harm, including motives, underlying biology, and social triggers. In turn, this can open up a vault of treatment options and give parents an idea of why self-harm occurs.

Barent Walsh was one of the first therapists to delve into the treatment of self-harm at The Bridge program in Marlborough, Massachusetts. He explains how much reach self-harm has in the lives of everyday people.

“It used to be that this kind of behavior was confined to the very severely impaired, people with histories of sexual abuse, with major body alienation,” said Walsh. “Then, suddenly, it morphed into the general population, to the point where it was affecting successful kids with money. That’s when the research funding started to flow, and we’ve gotten a better handle on what’s happening.”

Prior to the mid-1980s, no known research was conducted on self-harm. By the 1990s, it started to become increasingly recognized in popular culture and has been discussed by Princess Diana, Johnny Depp, and Angelina Jolie.

Today, media glamorization may be an influencing factor in self-harm among adolescents. Janis Whitlock, director of the Cornell Research Program for Self-Injury and Recovery, conducted surveys at 10 universities. Through her research, she found that roughly 1 in 5 college students engaged in self-harm at least once to soothe emotional pain.

In most cases, self-harm begins at around age 15 but can manifest at around age 17 or 18, according to Whitlock. Self-harm doesn’t stop after only one incident.

“About 3 in 4 continue, and the frequency tends to go up and down, as people go in and out of various stages,” she said.

For about 20 percent of people who engage in self-harm, the habit becomes a profound addiction that can take years to break. Some become dependent on it as the only way to truly feel anything or have control over the physical pain when they don’t have control over underlying emotional pain. Self-harm may also serve as a way to feel release from pain or suppress emotional pain.

Emerging treatment seems positive

Researchers and psychiatrists have found specialized talk therapy (also called dialectical behavior therapy) to be effective at minimizing and even eliminating the risk of self-harm and death by suicide. This treatment method was originally designed to help treat borderline personality disorder. Talk therapy may be done through one-on-one or group therapy sessions on a weekly basis. During each session, patients are taught coping methods in order to regulate underlying emotions and triggers that may lead to self-harm.

The effectiveness of this strategy was demonstrated in a study at Zucker Hillside Hospital in Glen Oak, New York. Through the study of 800 adolescent inpatients, doctors found that specialized talk therapy led to significantly fewer self-harm incidents, as well as reduced time on suicide watch and inpatient treatment. These results contrasted with inpatients who were treated before specialized talk therapy become standardized.

When it comes to mental health challenges and suicidality, there is no room for error. Psychiatrists and other medical professionals are expected to give patients who may be at risk of death by suicide their full attention and offer treatment on a case-by-case basis. The cookie-cutter methods of diagnosing and treating mental health have failed far too many times.

If you have lost a loved one due to death by suicide, it’s critical that you explore your legal options during these difficult times. Suicide lawyer Skip Simpson fully understands the pain and suffering you and your family may be going through and would like to help you in the pursuit of justice.

To schedule your free case evaluation, don’t hesitate to contact The Law Offices of Skip Simpson. Based in Texas, we serve clients across the United States.

New research shows that suicide and self-harm risk nearly triple in people suffering from restless leg syndrome

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Restless leg syndrome (RLS) — also known as Willis Ekbom Disease — is classified as a sensorimotor disorder that causes those affected to have an unstoppable urge to move their legs. It’s often caused by end-stage renal disease and hemodialysis, as well as iron deficiency, medication side effects, alcohol, nicotine, caffeine, pregnancy, and nerve damage.

For those who suffer from RLS, moving their legs is a way to ease pain and discomfort in the lower extremities. Symptoms of RLS often flair up in the late afternoon, evening, or at night when someone is trying to sleep. In turn, people with RLS often don’t receive adequate sleep — resulting in mood changes and inability to concentrate.

Researchers find a connection between RLS and death by suicide

According to a study conducted by researchers at Penn State, there may be a link between RLS and suicide risks. The connection between RLS and suicide is currently unclear but RLS often accompanies sleep deprivation, depression, heart disease, ADHD, obesity, and overall poor quality of life.

The Penn State study involved approximately 169,373 participants (both with and without RLS) across the United States and found that those with RLS are at a 2.7-fold greater risk of death by suicide or self-harm than those without the condition. None of the participants in the study had prior cases of attempted suicide or self-harm. Throughout the study, however, approximately 119 cases of death by suicide or self-harm were identified during a mean follow-up of 5.2 years.

While research scrutinizing sleep disorders is limited, researchers believe that sleep disturbance, insomnia, and obstructive sleep apnea may elevate suicide risks in people with RLS. Depression, however, was ruled out as a suicide risk factor.

Finding a solution to RLS-related suicide may require further research

Death by suicide has risen by 30 percent since 1999, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In addition, nearly 45,000 people in the U.S. died by suicide in 2016. These statistics are alarming. In a time when death by suicide is at an all-time high, studies such as the one conducted by researchers at Penn State help shed light on the possible risk factors we should be addressing.

About five percent of the population in Western countries is impacted by RLS. The condition can be debilitating for those who suffer from it. In the meantime, pinpointing the central cause of death by suicide and self-harm among people with RLS will require further research. Therefore, it’s critical that doctors don’t dismiss this condition as merely a nuisance.

If you lost a loved one to death by suicide that could have been prevented, it’s crucial that you take legal action. Knowing where to start, however, can be overwhelming and confusing, especially when dealing with the death of a loved one.

Nationally-recognized suicide lawyer and counselor Skip Simpson at The Law Offices of Skip Simpson helps families of those who died by suicide seek answers and justice. If a doctor or other medical professional failed to act promptly and effectively when they should have, speak to our experienced and compassionate legal team as soon as possible.

You can contact us online to schedule your free case evaluation or call (214) 618-8222.

Brain scans may ID suicide risks linked to depression

Texas suicide lawyerEven though the majority of people with depression don’t die by suicide, statistics show that roughly 30 percent who are unaffected by multiple antidepressant drugs or therapy make at least one attempt in their lifetime.

A common misconception about depression is that it must be treated as a single condition. However, it often involves multiple ailments that can heighten the risk of suicide, according to Science Mag. Researchers are currently trying to identify several depression subtypes by comparing the neural circuits that light up during certain tasks with actual depression symptoms. These efforts are part of a larger initiative to delve deeper into brain biology and mental health.

Identifying subtypes of depression that are most often linked to suicide

While the ultimate goal is to identify suicide risks through biological means, researchers hope to develop effective strategies for care that extend far beyond conventional psychiatry. This effort includes Research on Anxiety and Depression-Anhedonia Treatment (RAD-AT), which enrolls volunteers with certain subtypes of depression that put them at a heightened risk of suicide.

The study — which is led by Leanne Williams, a Stanford clinical neuroscientist — pioneers a method of treatment based on brain circuitry. In addition, the study hopes to link symptoms of depression to brain biology in order to help those who have had no previous success with treatment.

For more than 20 years, Williams has studied how depression manifests in the brain and has worked to collect thousands of brain scans from people with depression. After losing a patient early in her career, and recently, a loved one, she has dedicated herself to preventing death by suicide in people with depression.

After extensive research, Williams has identified at least six subtypes of depression, each of which is generated by unusual activity in the brain that effects certain sets of circuits responsible for regulating mood and cognition. Three key subtypes were found to be linked to suicide risks. These include:

  • A subtype that affects a circuit called the default mode network, which creates aimless mental chatter and negative thoughts while the brain is in neutral.
  • Another subtype, also called anhedonia, affects the reward networks — causing those affected by it to feel little or no pleasure.
  • A third subtype associated with attention, planning, and impulse (called cognitive control) often doesn’t respond adequately to depression treatment.

The link between brain biology and suicide has been studied since the early 1980s, particularly by neuroscientist John Mann of Columbia University. After examining the brains donated by families of those who died by suicide, he found that levels of serotonin were significantly lower than depressed people who died in other ways.

What other research has concluded

Mann recently joined Maria Oquendo, a psychiatrist at the University of Pennsylvania, to further study the link between low serotonin levels and suicide. In a 2016 study, Mann and Oquendo compiled data from positron emission tomography (PET) imaging, which tracks serotonin levels in the brain by using radioactive labels.

The study, which included 100 participants who were depressed or suicidal, found a significant biological difference between people with low-serotonin levels and those who experience circumstantial suicidal thoughts.

Another study, which was led by neuroscientist Irina Esterlis at Yale University focused exclusively on the link between post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and suicide. The study also used PET imaging, which found that people with PTSD who experienced suicidal thoughts were deficient in the signaling molecule glutamate. Esterlis’s finding also explores the possibility of treatment with a drug called ketamine, which may help with glutamate deficiency.

Skeptics believe that there is no one way to identify depression subtypes. Some research suggests indicators of depression subtypes may be based on distinct symptoms, response to treatment, genetics, hormones, and gut bacteria.

What we do know is, suicidal thoughts often occur in people who, otherwise, live seemingly satisfying lives. For this reason, conventional psychiatry may not be effective at mitigating the risk. You can’t simply ask a person suffering from depression why they feel depressed. The biological markers in the brain simply can’t be expressed in words.

We hope that the findings from this research lead to effective measures of identifying biologically related suicide risks and administering effective treatment.

If you have lost a loved one due to death by suicide, you may be looking for answers and closure. An experienced Texas suicide lawyer at the Law Offices of Skip Simpson can help you through these difficult times. We’re dedicated to helping families seek justice. Contact us online today to schedule a free case evaluation with our legal team.

Gun Access May Be Risk Factor in Soldier Suicide Deaths

Texas suicide lawyerDeath by suicide has become a growing safety concern for American service personnel over the years. According to, approximately 321 active-duty military personnel took their lives in 2018. This included 57 Marines, 68 sailors, 58 airmen, and 138 Army soldiers.

As of 2004, the suicide death rate among American service personnel has exceeded deaths due to combat injuries.

Suicide and gun ownership, access

One study published in the online journal JAMA Network Open, scrutinized more than 100 deaths by suicide involving active-duty American service personnel and found a significant link between the ownership, access, and usage of firearms, and the risk of suicide.

Researchers in the study conducted psychological autopsies of 135 American service personnel who died by suicide during a period of 27 months while on active duty (but not deployed). In addition, they interviewed next-of-kin and supervisors regarding deceased American service personnel ownership, storage, and use of firearms.

These patterns of behavior were then weighed with those of a controlled group of American service personnel with likened demographics and assessed suicide risks, as well as a second group of American service personnel who had expressed suicide ideation during the previous year.

The study found that American service personnel who died by suicide were more likely to own loaded firearms, carry them in public, and store them in their homes.

According to researchers, determining this pattern of behavior as a suicide risk factor may require additional research. The sample size in the study was rather small, and in many cases, researchers weren’t able to interview next-of-kin (who are more likely to have knowledge of an individual’s firearm ownership and use).

This study may help piece together the behavior patterns of American service personnel who die by suicide, however. Additionally, it may serve as a positive step towards identifying suicide risks and allowing for intervention.

What can be done?

The staggering number of deaths by suicide among American service personnel has prompted the Department of Defense (DOD) to take action. The DOD plans to address these suicide risks by focusing on three key areas:

  • Data surveillance and reporting — the DOD plans to release an accurate, annual suicide data report.
  • Program evaluation — scrutiny of overall suicide outcomes including attempts and deaths, as well as help-seeking behavior, barriers to care, and cohesion.
  • Private and public collaboration — the DOD seeks to form a collaborative effort between federal agencies, nonprofit organizations, academia, and other community support groups.

With proper care, suicide can be prevented and failure to provide this care can result in tragedy. American service personnel put their lives on the line to serve their country and protect us. Our system has a duty to return service to these brave men and women and look out for them.

If you have lost a loved one to suicide, or someone you know, you may be looking for answers. The Law Offices of Skip Simpson is here to help. We offer free case evaluations to the survivors and families of American service personnel who have died by suicide. We can identify where the system failed and where intervention should have been offered.

Contact us today to find out how we can help you.