Prevention of Suicide

Leonie Millard
Leonie Millard

Published: July 1st, 2022

7 min read

Suicide is a national crisis in the United Kingdom, with over 5000 suicides in England alone in 2021. The impact of every single one of them undoubtably devasting. This has been demonstrated by the suicide prevention charity CALM's Southbank exhibition in June 2022. 'The Last Photo'. The exhibition displays 50 pictures of those who committed suicide, with many photos depicting smiling people and happy memories, to demonstrate just how hard it can be to spot someone struggling with mental health issues. Each photo is accompanied by stories from friends and families on the shock of losing their loved one to suicide.

Suicide can affect anyone and everyone. The health secretary, Sajid Javid, spoke out recently about his older brother's suicide in 2018. When talking about the government's suicide prevention services plan, Javid speaks out about the harrowing numbers of suicides - "This has been a very personal experience for me but it is by no means unique…I want to find out what more we can do to prevent that and when it does happen to support people who are left behind. I feel that I am in a privileged position to do more about this because of my own experience and because I am the secretary of state for health".

Suicide is never a black and white issue, but there are some cases where a person has displayed clear signs of distress in the presence of mental health professionals and is under their care prior to their death. In cases like these, where a person is under the care of mental health professionals or is known to be at risk of taking their own life, these risks should be managed and minimised. Mental Health is an illness that must be treated appropriately. Where the care provided is substandard then there may be a potential claim for clinical negligence and/or a claim under the Human Rights Act.

These claims normally involve a failure to act and can include:

  • Failure to correctly diagnose a mental health problem

  • Failure to react when someone displays signs or symptoms of distress

  • Failure to react to requests for help

  • Failure to make appropriate or urgent referrals

  • Failure to appropriately supervise someone who is at risk

  • Failure to prevent access to dangerous substances or equipment

  • Failure to safeguard or implement adequate care plans or risk assessments

  • Failure to administer appropriate medication or treatment

  • Inadequate community care

  • Discharging a patient too early

  • Failing to manage the risk

  • Failing to provide proper security and allowing a patient to escape

A claim for damages can be made by dependants where certain circumstances arise. That category is defined by law.

If successful, compensation is designed (as far as it ever can), to reflect the loss of your loved one for things such as loss of income, business, pension, their love and affection and services that they performed around the home or within the family unit. There is also a statutory bereavement award and a potential claim for pain and suffering on behalf of the estate if it can be shown that the Deceased would not have suffered had appropriate care been provided from a point whilst they were alive. The costs of a funeral are also recoverable. It offers some practical assistance in difficult times.

Losing a loved one in any situation is difficult, but when it was preventable it is particularly hard.

Other benefits of perusing a claim and obtaining an apology include getting to the 'truth' about what has happened and affecting change. We are pleased to report that amendments to policy, procedure and facilities are all achievable and may prevent this happening to someone else. It shines a light on bad practice and offers a learning opportunity.

If you would like to receive free legal advice after losing a loved one because of a failure to prevent suicide our expert team of solicitors are here to help. Please contact Leonie Millard in our Medical Negligence department by emailing Leonie Millard or by phoning 01254770517.

For further information please contact Leonie Millard

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