Inpatient Suicide in Behavioral Health Care Facilities

An attorney dedicated to preventing tragedies

Behavioral health care is all about ensuring patients with mental health challenges are safe and supported. It’s a space where vulnerable individuals seek safe healing. However, when a patient dies by suicide within the walls of inpatient facilities, the impact is nothing short of devastating. For families already grappling with the complexities of mental health, the loss of a loved one to suicide in such a controlled environment can shatter their world. The questions, the pain, and the overwhelming sense of loss are deeply distressing, and leave families searching for answers to justice.

At The Law Offices of Skip Simpson, we know the pain of dealing with suicide is incomparable. The weight of unanswered questions, the sense of betrayal, and the longing for accountability can be overwhelming. Our firm specializes in guiding families through the legal complexities of such cases, offering support, compassion, and a commitment to seeking justice for their loved ones. We offer legal support and a way forward from an experienced attorney who will stand by your side every step of the way.

Lack of monitoring

A lack of proper monitoring is a significant risk factor contributing to inpatient suicides. In many cases, patients may not receive the level of monitoring and observation necessary to prevent an attempted suicide. The failure to adhere to the standard of care and the use of cost-saving measures such as infrequent observation intervals will leave vulnerable patients at heightened risk for suicide. It is dangerous.

In June 2023, a lawsuit was filed by the mother of a teen who hanged himself with bedsheets at Summit Oaks Hospital in Summit, New Jersey. In a article, “‘I’m Going to Be Pounding Them’: Facilities in the Crosshairs Over Inpatient Suicides”, it is noted that the victim, Jaxson, had previously attempted suicide and shared thoughts of suicide at Morristown Medical Center before he was transferred to Summit Oaks.

Jaxson was at Summit Oaks for 12 hours and was not seen by the on-duty psychiatrist. His room was in a corner, with no roommate, or sitter, and completely out of sight from the nursing station. Moreover, he was only observed at 15-minute intervals – a dangerous cost-saving measure.

“The standard of care means that they’re monitored either one-to-one or line of sight,” said Attorney Skip Simpson. “The reason why they want them on every 15-minute watch is because it’s less expensive.”

Causes of inpatient suicide

With mental health issues on the rise, it’s important to note the increase in suicide rates across the U.S. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reveals a startling 37% surge in suicide rates from 2000 to 2018. Although there was a slight decrease in 2019 and 2020, the rates climbed up again, coming close to their peak in 2021.

The risks are high, making it crucial to assess the causes of inpatient suicide. While having items like plastic trash bags or clothing with strings or laces may appear harmless, failing to remove them is a failure to meet proper facility standards and can lead to a patient taking their life. Other potential causes of inpatient suicides include:

  • Negligent suicide watch: Failing to monitor patients who are at risk of suicide.
  • Inadequate suicide assessments: Not evaluating patients properly or regularly and adjusting monitoring based on their risk level.
  • Misdiagnosing mental illness: Incorrectly identifying or treating mental health conditions.
  • Understaffing: Not having enough staff to monitor and care for patients properly.
  • Failing to remove dangerous items: Allowing patients access to items like shoelaces, belts, or other objects that could be used for self-harm.
  • Inadequate safety measures: Not removing potential anchor points for hanging, such as shower curtain rods, door handles, or other fixtures from which someone can hang themselves.
  • Improperly secured windows: Failing to secure or lock windows, allowing patients to access potential means of self-harm.
  • Hazardous clothing: Providing clothing with drawstrings or other potential risks.
  • Unsecured plastic bags: Not removing all plastic bags from patient areas.
  • Door hinge safety: Not installing breakaway door handles and shower curtains or using piano hinges that could be used for hanging.
  • Allowing access to medications or substances that can be used for an attempted suicide.
  • Lack of communication or coordination among staff members regarding patient risks.
  • Insufficient training for staff on suicide prevention and crisis intervention.
  • Inadequate response to warning signs or verbal cues from patients expressing suicidal thoughts or intent.

Get justice for your loved one

If you’ve lost a loved one due to suicide in a healthcare facility, seek legal guidance. The shock and grief of suicide can be overwhelming, but remember, you’re not to blame and you’re not alone. It is the responsibility of the mental health professionals to help patients, but instead, they failed. While money can’t undo the loss, legal action can hold providers accountable and prevent future tragedies.

The Law Offices of Skip Simpson has a track record of helping families throughout Texas secure justice for their loved ones. Help us continue to hold facilities accountable for their unsafe practices. Take the first step and contact us to schedule a free consultation. We’re committed to helping your family.

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The Law Offices of Skip Simpson

2591 Dallas Parkway, Suite 300
Frisco, Texas 75034

Phone: (214) 618-8222
Fax: (214) 618-8242