It’s devastating to lose a family member or friend to suicide. Sadly, the suicide victim may have recently seen a medical professional who likely lacked proper suicide prevention training.
Your family member or close friend who died by suicide may have been saved if his or her medical professionals had proper suicide prevention training. Knowing that the medical professional could not help may add layers of grief.
Unfortunately, a lack of suicide prevention training is pervasive among medical professionals. The state of Washington, however, is taking a step in the right direction by considering a bill that would require mental health therapists, social workers, chemical dependency professionals, counselors and others to complete suicide risk assessment and management training. The requirement unfortunately does not apply to physicians or nurses at this time.
The House passed the suicide prevention bill on Feb. 10. Following the House action, the Senate Health and Long Term Care Committee heard testimony from health care workers and officials. The bill passed out of committee and will likely pass in the Senate.
One state representative, Tina Orwall, a lead sponsor of the bill who has a background in mental health work, described how difficult it is for family members and health care workers to lose someone to suicide.
According to the Oregonian in Washington, Orwall said, “When I think of the loss of the families, to lose a member, it’s just unbearable to think about.”
The Seattle Times reported that many health professionals aren’t prepared to recognize, assess or treat a suicidal patient – and this includes even mental-health providers.
Dallas-based lawyer Skip Simpson, a leading expert in suicide prevention, co-authored with 7 leading suicidologists around the U.S. “Preventing Suicide Through Improved Training in Suicide Risk Assessment and Care: An American Association of Suicidology Task Force Report Addressing Serious Gaps in U.S. Mental Health Training,” a white paper that was mentioned in House testimony to support the legislation.
Simpson and many suicidologists have been calling for proper training among health care professionals for decades. One myth about suicide is that people who are determined to take their lives will do it, and nothing can stop them. The reality is that a properly trained mental health professional can prevent the suicide if the professional is given an opportunity to treat the patient.
Proper suicide risk assessment is crucial. Improper assessment, or a failure to do one at all, can have tragic consequences. A mental health professional may be liable for failing to conduct a suicide risk assessment, or providing only a cursory examination of risk.
The bill would require mental health providers to attend six hours of training on suicide prevention every six years. If the suicide prevention bill passes, Washington would be the first state to require such training. Given the alarming suicide statistics (every 14.2 minutes, someone dies by suicide in the United States; suicide is the tenth leading cause of death), we hope other states will follow Washington’s lead.
At the Law Offices of Skip Simpson, we understand how devastating it is to lose a family member or friend to suicide. If you lost a loved one, you will need a compassionate lawyer who works hard to hold mental health professionals accountable. Contact a Dallas attorney with a highly successful track record who represents clients nationally. Call 214-618-8222 or fill out our online contact form.