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Caretaker Awareness: Signs Of Potential Teen Suicide Risk

A state-run children's psychiatric center is the focus of an investigation after the center experienced eight suicide attempts in eight months, one of which ended in the death of a pregnant teen.

Public health inspectors, on multiple occasions, found that the facility allowed vulnerable patients to be left in "immediate jeopardy".

The investigation surrounding the death of the pregnant teen pointed to inadequate staff care, including the failure to conduct a face-to-face dialogue during a scheduled observation check. In fact, the center's overall clinical treatment of the patient was minimal, despite the teen's history of suicide attempts.

The agency responsible for overseeing the psychiatric center responded to inspection reports by authorizing an outside review of procedures, adding to staff, upgrading equipment, and improving communication and emergency-response procedures. Josh Kovner "Child Advocate: 6 Suicide Attempts Preceded Pregnant Teen's Death At Psychiatric Center" www.courant.com (Sep. 26, 2018).


Commentary and Checklist

The tragic outcome for the child in the report in the above article may have resulted from the care facility’s lack of appropriate patient care.

Whether a facility’s care standards fail because of improper staffing levels, ineffective equipment, or a change in patients’ needs, administrators can avoid such a situation by conducting regular reviews of policies and procedures and by following through on changes when necessary.

Regular reviews should include observation of daily proceedings, interviews with staff, as well as a complete evaluation of the physical environment. In addition, care facilities should provide a method for staff, patients, and family members of patients to report concerns of inappropriate behavior or inadequate care.

Staff training is another important element to maintaining appropriate care. Training should take place on a recurring basis and following any changes to policies or procedures. Training programs are also an excellent opportunity for staff to express any concerns they may have that current procedures are not sufficiently addressing the needs of the patient.

The implementation of, and follow-through on, policies protective polices for children is crucial in the face of current statistics regarding child suicides, which indicate a rate that doubled between 2008 and 2015. Here is are possible signs of teen suicides to watch for:

  • Talking about wanting to die or to kill oneself
  • Looking for a way to kill oneself, such as searching online or buying a gun
  • Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live
  • Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain
  • Talking about being a burden to others
  • Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs
  • Acting anxious or agitated; behaving recklessly
  • Sleeping too little or too much
  • Withdrawing or feeling isolated
  • Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
  • Displaying extreme mood swings.
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