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Suicide in Psychiatric Ward

Vix 11 November 2010 31

Is it just me or do others think it’s unreasonable to blame anyone other than the man who suicided in Calvary’s private psychiatric ward for his death?

Yes, he had his assessed risk category down-graded the day before…but he laughed at the treating psychiatrist (a locum) and said he wouldn’t kill himself (and requested to walk the Hospital grounds as it made him feel better)…

Yes, he was on medication that may have increased his suicidal thoughts… but as his regular psychiatrist, who put him on the medication, said, there’s a big difference between thinking about suicide and actively planning it… and that there was little evidence to prove the medication was a cause in itself…

I think the only thing that was done ‘badly’ was letting him into the voluntary ward when he had previously tried to suicide there several years before.

At the end of the day, if someone wants to take their own life there isn’t much anyone else can do to stop them – close supervision (such as he may have got at the Canberra Hospital’s involuntary ward) may have kept him alive in the immediate term but is not an indefinite solution.


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Suicide in Psychiatric Ward
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Vix 11:07 pm 04 Apr 12

The coroner rules on this case recently – basically saying that the situation was very sad but neither the facility nor the doctors could be ‘blamed’ for what happened.

I find it ironic that the family – by not accepting that the suicide was probably not preventable – leave themselves open to the argument that they may in some way be blamed – according to the patient’s long term psychiatrist, he had at the time marrital issues/conflict…

If you’re interested the Canberra Times reported on the Coronor’s findings:

http://www.canberratimes.com.au/act-news/family-despairs-at-calvary-suicide-ruling-20120309-1uq6h.html

Serenace1 8:51 pm 16 Nov 10

If you wanted to make psych wards suicide proof, there would be nothing to sit on, sleep on or any other facilities. If someone wants to end it, they will. No shrink or meds or hospital will change that. I would think suicides in psych wards have been more frequent than what is ever made public. And I would expect that to remain the case. It is not really surprising news is it? It is unreasonable to hold the facility accountable. However, who has the full version of the story here? It is possible more light will be shed on the case.

eyeLikeCarrots 8:58 am 12 Nov 10

Vix said :

And perhaps that is the answer – the family are waiting for their civil suit.

If I feel sorry for anything, its that people can’t see through thier grief to understand that whistling for the legal team isin’t going to help them get on with thier lives.

Vix 10:36 pm 11 Nov 10

carnardly said:

“There are not staff in a the same room with patients unless you’re in intensive care. Anyone could do it if they really wanted to the minute a staff person walked out.”

On ARC5 you are not left unattended (at ANY time) but voluntary wards don’t have ARC5 patients…

“I feel sorry for the family – but it certainly isn’t anyone else’s fault.”

Agree wholeheartedly…

Amanda Hugankis said:

“…BUT I think we have to be very careful to not say ‘someone killed themselves in our medical/psychatric care, and if someone is going to do it there isn’t anything we can do to stop them, therefore there is no need for us to examine if there is anything we could have done to prevent this’.”

I agree with this too – I have no doubt both doctors involved have questioned themselves as to whether they could have done something to help prevent this waste, and according to the Canberra Times (10/11/2010)Calvary Hospital has changed some policies – my comment related more to the family blaming others.

JessicaNumber said:
“Not funny at all.

The suicidal feeling is not a constant state, it is an acute feeling that may only last a half hour. Suicidal feelings are associated with depression and even more strongly with conditions like eating disorder, anxiety and bipolar disorder that can leave the person feeling completely out of control.

People who laugh and joke about suicide or try to stigmatise it just make it difficult for patients to call for help in that desperate half hour when living seems so hard.

In conclusion, pull your head in. It might all be a horrible mistake by the expert and well meaning staff but there’s nothing to be gained by blaming the patient.”

Geez, where do I start? No one has joked about suicide in general or this case in particular. You seemed to miss out a psychiatric condition in your list of related disorders – schizophrenia – 1 in 10 people with schizophrenia commit suicide (NB commit suicide not attempt it). As to the conclusion – perhaps it was all a horrible mistake by the man involved but there’s nothing to be gained by blaming others?

eyeLikeCarrots said:

“…ask, “Why does someone need to be blamed”?. This is a societal problem… if you’re looking for someone to blame, throw a rock.”

Agree with this too…which is why I made the post in the first place – the family are blaming others…

And perhaps that is the answer – the family are waiting for their civil suit.

MWF 9:59 pm 11 Nov 10

JessicaNumber said :

I am lucky enough to have worked in healthcare …… if someone I cared about died from suicide and I had done nothing at all, I would have blamed myself.

Don’t blame yourself.

Those of us who are or have been suidical are really clever at hiding it from people like you.

Pommy bastard 2:57 pm 11 Nov 10

trix said :

@motleychick and JessicaNumber – actually, let’s not get too absolutist over this. I understand that BOTH can be true. You can struggle with depression for quite some time (or even not) and then fairly suddenly decide to make an attempt, perhaps due to a specific precipitating event. People who drive into bridges after breaking up with their partners, for example.

Other people struggle with overtly suicidal thoughts and plans hour by hour for months or even years.

People are hugely variable, and it’s only to be expected there is a range of experience in this area (and every other).

Exactly right.

If suicidally was a “fixed state” then there would be a far higher rate of successful suicide attempts, and a far higher rate of people incarcerated for their suicidality.

Suicide is the nadir of human emotion, a point where all hope, and belief is lost, and there is only one possible solution to the existential dilemma.

The descent to this point, and indeed the ascent from it, can happen over weeks, months, hours or minutes.

Let us not for get to that depression, the leading cause of suicide, can be endogenous, (from within) or reactive (to a circumstance.)

If someone hears their life partner has died, and decides to take their life to “join them”, has that person been in a state of extended suicidality? No.

With regard to the original post, is it not true that the person who killed themselves, (I do not use the word victim, I think the victims are those left behind) was at a private hospital, one with no locked wards?

Maybe the choice to “go private” was a factor then.

UrbanAdventure.org 2:56 pm 11 Nov 10

eyeLikeCarrots said :

UrbanAdventure.org said :

What a unusual way to comment about suicide. Blame the victim. It wasn’t the staff’s fault.

I strongly agree, except to ask, “Why does someone need to be blamed”?. This is a societal problem… if you’re looking for someone to blame, throw a rock.

Indeed, well said. We all need to do our part to be more considerate, caring and open to people, as well as more accepting and open about mental health.

And now for a plug: Check out GROW Australia’s web site for a practical self help group for people suffering from anxiety, depression and mental health issues. They have a group in Narrabundah and Belconnen.
http://www.grow.net.au/

youami 1:34 pm 11 Nov 10

dvaey said :

JessicaNumber said :

The suicidal feeling is not a constant state, it is an acute feeling that may only last a half hour…

Where does this expert opinion come from? Apparently not from anyone whos actually been suicidal. Maybe a half-hour suicidal episode might happen while on drugs or in an extreme situation, but a lot of people with mental health issues who are at risk of suicide, are at risk a lot more often than a ‘half an hour state’. Im sure suffers of depression and other mental health disorders experienced only an ‘acute feeling’.

roflmao said :

I believe people should have the right to decide for themselves, though I maintain that suicide is a selfish act, which hurts those closest to you.

A lot of things are ‘selfish acts’. Should we never do anything in life that might hurt someone close to you? If an individual feels so despaired, lost and isolated that they feel suicide is the only option, it annoys me when others try to make the issue about them.

Theres nothing worse, in a suicidal state, feeling everything is falling down around you, to hear those closest to you talking about how youre being selfish and how it will hurt them. Saying ‘that will hurt me’ is just emotional blackmail and is more likely to push someone over the edge than actually trying to solve the problem in the first place.

Ive been there, Ive had people say those things to me, and Ill tell you first-hand, if you feel your life has no value, having people tell you youre being selfish and should be thinking about them and their feelings, is pretty much the last thing you need to hear in that situation.

OMG, thank you. You have just completely changed the way I view suicide. As a person who is always open-minded and always happy to be corrected at times on issues where my views have been built from my own head, I too used to think it was a selfish act but you make it so clear. And as Amanada also commented (#16) it should be about hope not guilt.

Oh and it is good that this post is all happeneing in Movember… as no doubt depression is a big ticket item in suicide.

eyeLikeCarrots 1:23 pm 11 Nov 10

UrbanAdventure.org said :

What a unusual way to comment about suicide. Blame the victim. It wasn’t the staff’s fault.

I strongly agree, except to ask, “Why does someone need to be blamed”?. This is a societal problem… if you’re looking for someone to blame, throw a rock.

Amanda Hugankis 12:35 pm 11 Nov 10

JessicaNumber said :

Thanks Trix. I wasn’t suggesting that people go from cheerful to suicidal and back again in a mere 30 minutes, but rather from depressed and thinking about suicide to an acute state of being likely to go through with it.

I’m not going to entertain speculation on who is the most depressed RiotACT reader. We have all known people who have suffered depression and other mental disorders and when someone you love says “I’m suicidal” it is damn hard to know what to do.

I am lucky enough to have worked in healthcare and known that you could get fantastic reading material from textbooks to easily read brochures from organizations like Living Is For Everyone. I am a nerd so my natural response in a difficult situation is to read. It doesn’t make me mistake proof but if someone I cared about died from suicide and I had done nothing at all, I would have blamed myself.

Trained mental health experts should at least review their performance and policy when things go wrong. They shouldn’t be blamed or shamed, just given an opportunity to improve, just as we learn from experience in all other aspects of our lives.

10

JessicaNumber 12:20 pm 11 Nov 10

Thanks Trix. I wasn’t suggesting that people go from cheerful to suicidal and back again in a mere 30 minutes, but rather from depressed and thinking about suicide to an acute state of being likely to go through with it.

I’m not going to entertain speculation on who is the most depressed RiotACT reader. We have all known people who have suffered depression and other mental disorders and when someone you love says “I’m suicidal” it is damn hard to know what to do.

I am lucky enough to have worked in healthcare and known that you could get fantastic reading material from textbooks to easily read brochures from organizations like Living Is For Everyone. I am a nerd so my natural response in a difficult situation is to read. It doesn’t make me mistake proof but if someone I cared about died from suicide and I had done nothing at all, I would have blamed myself.

Trained mental health experts should at least review their performance and policy when things go wrong. They shouldn’t be blamed or shamed, just given an opportunity to improve, just as we learn from experience in all other aspects of our lives.

Amanda Hugankis 12:08 pm 11 Nov 10

dvaey said :

motleychick said :

I just don’t understand how you can say that someone only feels suicidal for half an hour. If you have research to show that this is true please share it. But I’ve studied this and that is far from true.

I think the majority of those who ‘feel suicidal for half an hour’ are the same ones who go on facebook/fml/livejournal and talk about how their life is so horrible and they hate everyone and everything, right before they goto the mall with their friends and suddenly get over it. Those people might need mental health help, but it doesnt mean theyre going to end it all, and theyre rarely the ones in the mental health system, who this article is about helping.

Please tell me you don’t work in the ACT Mental Health system …. please?!

Vix 11:59 am 11 Nov 10

@Urban:

Yes – I hope I am well informed before being willing to post on such a sensitive topic. For anyone else that would like to know the background of this case, search abc.net.au or read the Canberra Times. Here is the link to the last article on the abc:

http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2010/11/10/3062489.htm

Perhaps I should have been clearer – the family are trying to blame the doctors and I think that that is unrealistic.

My only ‘link’ to this case is that I have been an inpatient in the facility where the suicide took place.

dvaey 11:55 am 11 Nov 10

motleychick said :

I just don’t understand how you can say that someone only feels suicidal for half an hour. If you have research to show that this is true please share it. But I’ve studied this and that is far from true.

I think the majority of those who ‘feel suicidal for half an hour’ are the same ones who go on facebook/fml/livejournal and talk about how their life is so horrible and they hate everyone and everything, right before they goto the mall with their friends and suddenly get over it. Those people might need mental health help, but it doesnt mean theyre going to end it all, and theyre rarely the ones in the mental health system, who this article is about helping.

Amanda Hugankis 11:40 am 11 Nov 10

motleychick said :

JessicaNumber said :

Not funny at all.

The suicidal feeling is not a constant state, it is an acute feeling that may only last a half hour.

I’m assuming from this comment that you know nothing at all about suicidality or have never experienced it. Suicide is a constant feeling for people who are suffering from mental health issues. Hopelessness is a feeling that many people with depression, bipolar or anxiety suffer and that’s a big one to make people want to commit suicide. Could you imagine feeling hopeless every second of every day? Suicide intervention can be helpful, and so can medication. But if someone is feeling that hopeless about themselves and their life, then they believe their only option is to commit suicide so they don’t have to deal with it anymore. They also feel that they are a burden to their friends and families and that if they are no longer around it will make everyone else’s life easier.

I just don’t understand how you can say that someone only feels suicidal for half an hour. If you have research to show that this is true please share it. But I’ve studied this and that is far from true.

Sorry MChick, I don’t doubt your research … but I CAN say it can be episodic, but I can only say that for myself. Like many things – its shades of grey, and I could only say that perhaps its not the same for everyone. Many years ago, I definitely had those thoughts and episodes come and go over a few years during a particular stage in my life. I would expect that this might be particularly true for those with bi-polar (certainly the ones I’ve spoken with)?

I don’t think that we can be so general about something so complex as to assume from one set of comments that someone else knows nothing about this particular life/death matter. I hope we don’t presume to know anyone’s mind in the case of suicide, as evidenced by the case that the OP is referring to.

Amanda Hugankis 11:31 am 11 Nov 10

dvaey said :

JessicaNumber said :

The suicidal feeling is not a constant state, it is an acute feeling that may only last a half hour…

Where does this expert opinion come from? Apparently not from anyone whos actually been suicidal. Maybe a half-hour suicidal episode might happen while on drugs or in an extreme situation, but a lot of people with mental health issues who are at risk of suicide, are at risk a lot more often than a ‘half an hour state’. Im sure suffers of depression and other mental health disorders experienced only an ‘acute feeling’.

roflmao said :

I believe people should have the right to decide for themselves, though I maintain that suicide is a selfish act, which hurts those closest to you.

A lot of things are ‘selfish acts’. Should we never do anything in life that might hurt someone close to you? If an individual feels so despaired, lost and isolated that they feel suicide is the only option, it annoys me when others try to make the issue about them.

Theres nothing worse, in a suicidal state, feeling everything is falling down around you, to hear those closest to you talking about how youre being selfish and how it will hurt them. Saying ‘that will hurt me’ is just emotional blackmail and is more likely to push someone over the edge than actually trying to solve the problem in the first place.

Ive been there, Ive had people say those things to me, and Ill tell you first-hand, if you feel your life has no value, having people tell you youre being selfish and should be thinking about them and their feelings, is pretty much the last thing you need to hear in that situation.

Bingo – it speaks to your existence only being valuable while it serves another’s needs. What you look for is hope, not guilt.

trix 11:23 am 11 Nov 10

@motleychick and JessicaNumber – actually, let’s not get too absolutist over this. I understand that BOTH can be true. You can struggle with depression for quite some time (or even not) and then fairly suddenly decide to make an attempt, perhaps due to a specific precipitating event. People who drive into bridges after breaking up with their partners, for example.

Other people struggle with overtly suicidal thoughts and plans hour by hour for months or even years.

People are hugely variable, and it’s only to be expected there is a range of experience in this area (and every other).

trix 11:17 am 11 Nov 10

Amanda Hugankis said :

BUT I think we have to be very careful to not say ‘someone killed themselves in our medical/psychatric care, and if someone is going to do it there isn’t anything we can do to stop them, therefore there is no need for us to examine if there is anything we could have done to prevent this’.

Spot-on, Amanda. Someone here seems to be very quick to try and shift blame elsewhere. An investigation into suicide (or any incident involving deaths) should not necessarily be about finger-pointing, per se, but often there are lessons to be learned. Running around saying “It wuzn’t MEEEE!” doesn’t really foster an attitude of investigating what might be done better in future.

motleychick 11:10 am 11 Nov 10

JessicaNumber said :

Not funny at all.

The suicidal feeling is not a constant state, it is an acute feeling that may only last a half hour.

I’m assuming from this comment that you know nothing at all about suicidality or have never experienced it. Suicide is a constant feeling for people who are suffering from mental health issues. Hopelessness is a feeling that many people with depression, bipolar or anxiety suffer and that’s a big one to make people want to commit suicide. Could you imagine feeling hopeless every second of every day? Suicide intervention can be helpful, and so can medication. But if someone is feeling that hopeless about themselves and their life, then they believe their only option is to commit suicide so they don’t have to deal with it anymore. They also feel that they are a burden to their friends and families and that if they are no longer around it will make everyone else’s life easier.

I just don’t understand how you can say that someone only feels suicidal for half an hour. If you have research to show that this is true please share it. But I’ve studied this and that is far from true.

DarkLadyWolfMother 10:35 am 11 Nov 10

JessicaNumber said :

The suicidal feeling is not a constant state, it is an acute feeling that may only last a half hour.

I wish that had been true for me. I suspect for many who are suicidal it’s not something that lasts only half an hour. There was a period in my life when it was something I thought about nearly constantly; thinking about doing it, how to do it, how to stop people stopping me. That state lasted for many years in chunks of months with perhaps a few weeks between where I wasn’t suicidal.

This doesn’t mean everyone is like that, but I just wanted to point out that for some people it can be a ‘long term’ problem.

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