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Failure to Recognize Suicidal Tendencies

Suicide is among the leading causes of death for adults. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide is the third leading cause for teens and young adults ages 15 to 24, the second leading cause for adults ages 25 to 34, the fourth leading cause for those from ages 35 to 54, and the eighth leading cause for people ages 55 to 64. It is the tenth leading cause of death for Americans of all ages.

However, the number of people who think about suicide far outweighs the number of people who attempt suicide or complete a suicide. The CDC reports that more than 8 million adults say they’ve had suicidal thoughts within the last year. Only about one-fourth of that number made plans for suicide, and about 1 million people said they actually attempted suicide.

Many people who have suicidal thoughts may not actually want to die. Most people who die by suicide have some form of mental illness such as depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder. They feel pain and despair and lack hope that things will get better, but many of them want help.

Because of the stigma often associated with mental illness, depression, and suicidal thoughts, it can be an act of tremendous strength and courage for a person to decide to turn to a mental health professional for help. They’re placing their trust in a psychiatrist, psychologist, or counselor at a time when they’re incredibly fragile. It may be difficult for them to find the words to express what they’re thinking and feeling, and they’re relying on a trained mental health professional to see what’s happening and know how to help.

When a mental health professional fails to recognize that a patient is suicidal, or fails to properly treat someone who is having thoughts of suicide, the outcome can be tragic. If a person who reaches out for help in a time of desperation doesn’t receive that help, he or she may follow through with a plan for suicide and either die by suicide or suffer potentially serious health consequences of a suicide attempt.

Warning Signs of Suicide

There are a number of signs that can indicate a person is thinking about suicide. Medical and mental health professionals should be trained to recognize these signs and intervene when necessary. They also should take thorough medical histories of patients that include asking whether the person has any personal or family history of depression or other mental illness, or of drug or alcohol abuse as those often go hand-in-hand with mental health issues.

Warning signs of suicide include:

  • Talking about suicide or having no reason to live
  • Talking about being a burden to family or friends
  • Talking about feeling trapped or being in pain
  • Sudden or increased use of drugs or alcohol
  • Changes in sleeping patterns
  • Saying goodbye to family and friends
  • Giving away possessions
  • Withdrawal from friends, family, and activities
  • Acquiring the means to commit suicide, such as shopping for a firearm

When someone goes to a doctor, psychiatrist, or hospital and exhibits these signs, it may be malpractice if the provider or hospital:

  • Fails to take an adequate medical and mental health history
  • Fails to diagnose a mental health crisis
  • Fails to admit the person to a psychiatric bed
  • Fails to prescribe medication for depression or other mental illness

How an Attorney Can Help

If you are the survivor of a suicide attempt, or you lost a loved one to a suicide attempt after a medical or mental health provider failed to recognize and treat your depression or other mental illness, you may have a claim for medical malpractice. Through a malpractice claim, you may be able to recover compensation for damages that, depending upon the circumstances, may include medical costs, lost income, loss of normal life, loss of your relationship with your loved one, and pain and suffering.

An experienced Chicago injury attorney can help you decide if pursuing a claim is the right decision for you and your family. An attorney can explain your options for possible compensation, and help you through the process from investigation to settlement negotiations or trial, if a lawsuit is filed.