New study: Three things emergency rooms can do to prevent suicide

Suicide is a growing health problem in America. In 2015, over 44,000 people died from suicide, which, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, makes it the 10th leading cause of death in the United States.

As a Houston, Texas medical malpractice lawyer, I regularly receive calls from patients and family members concerned about poor inpatient behavioral or psychiatric care that allowed a suicide to occur. In my experience, most of the time treatment for a suicidal patient begins in emergency room, often followed by admission to a behavioral or psychiatric ward in the hospital or a separate facility.

Recent data show that emergency rooms treat more than one-half a million people each year for self-harm injuries.

New ideas for suicide prevention

In my experience, people with suicidal thoughts, as well as their family members, feel helpless and did not know what to do.

The National Institutes of Health recently announced results of a study that showed some simple follow-up efforts by emergency room personnel can have a big impact on suicide prevention.

In particular, researchers found that three interventions by emergency rooms are effective in suicide prevention, although they have not yet been widely adopted. They include:

· Hospital staff mailing follow-up postcards to at-risk patients each month for four months, and then every other month, for a total of eight cards.

· Hospital staff calling at-risk patients one to three months after discharge, to offer support and encourage follow-up treatment.

· Hospital staff connecting patients to suicide-focused cognitive behavioral therapy programs.

Research data show that each of these interventions reduces patients’ suicide risk between 30-50%.

Care concerns in psychiatric, behavioral, and substance abuse facilities

As a Houston, Texas medical negligence attorney, I regularly research facility survey reports from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. These reports are generated after on-site inspections by surveyors dispatched by Medicare and Medicaid, and, in my opinion, help identify common problems and trends in delivering poor health care.

I have noted that a number of Houston hospitals that have multiple citations for violations from Medicare/Medicaid are psychiatric, behavioral health, or substance abuse facilities. The Houston facilities with at least 10 citations, since 2011, include:

· Hopebridge Hospital, located at 5556 Gasmer Drive, in Houston, Texas, was cited with 49 violations since February 2011, with the last six violations occurring on March 8, 2017.

· West Oaks Hospital, located at 6500 Hornwood, in Houston, Texas, was cited with 21 violations since May 2011, with the last violation occurring on November 15, 2016.

· Intracare North Hospital, located at 11200 Cyprus Station Drive, in Houston, Texas, was cited with 16 violations since January 2013, with the last violation occurring on April 7, 2017.

· Behavioral Hospital of Bellaire, located at 5314 Dashwood, Suite 200, in Houston, Texas, was cited with 14 violations since May 2011, with the last violation occurring on December 6, 2016.

· Cypress Creek Hospital, located at 17750 Cali Drive, in Houston, Texas, was cited with 10 violations since April 2012, with the last two violations occurring on December 17, 2015.

In my experience, the most common negligence that I have seen involving facilities that treat patients who are considering or threatening suicide involve either medication errors or placing patients in unsupervised rooms where they have access to objects that allow them to inflict self-harm. The standard of care requires healthcare providers treating suicidal patients to appreciate the risk of self-harm and to undertake measures to keep their patients safe.

We are here to help

If you or someone you care for has been seriously injured or suffered a loss from suicide, which you believe is because of poor psychiatric or behavioral health care, call Painter Law Firm, in Houston, Texas, at 281-580-8800, for a free consultation about your potential case.


Robert Painter is an experienced medical malpractice lawyer at Painter Law Firm PLLC, in Houston, Texas. He represents patients and family members and files medical malpractice and wrongful death lawsuits against hospitals and physicians.

Robert Painter
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Robert Painter

Robert Painter is an award-winning medical malpractice attorney at Painter Law Firm Medical Malpractice Attorneys in Houston, Texas. He is a former hospital administrator who represents patients and family members in medical negligence and wrongful death lawsuits all over Texas. Contact him for a free consultation and strategy session by calling 281-580-8800 or emailing him right now.