Posted by Stephanie Sherman | May 31, 2021 | 0 Comments

Most psychiatrists are simply trying their best to provide quality patient care, however, there are instances where psychiatrists are sloppy, lazy, or simply don't care about being diligent in their care which can lead to life threatening events such as overdoses, worsening conditions, or suicide.  If you, a friend or loved one is seeking mental health care, beware of the following that can impact the safety of the treatment. 

     1.  Allowing A Patient with Suicidal Behaviors to Be Lost to Follow Up.

Psychiatrists document only the first suicidal risk assessment and do not initiate ongoing monitoring and follow up risk assessments.  Many times, a patient will disclose during a treatment session that she is suicidal, and the psychiatrist will do a suicidal risk assessment right then. After the session concludes and the patient's emotions have calmed as a result of the therapy, most psychiatrists do not follow up with the patient between sessions, and do not communicate with family members or persons who may live with the patients. In fact, the psychiatrist may be the only one who knows of the patient's suicidality. It is very rare that a psychiatrist will call to follow up after the session. 

     2.  Prescribing Psychotropic Medications Without Frequent Follow Up.

Many psychotropic drugs carry a warning that use may cause suicidal thoughts.  If the drugs are not carefully monitored and started slowly, a patient may experience intense behavior changes, sleep disturbances, and thoughts of killing themselves or others. Psychiatrists often prescribe the drugs without any history of a patient's reactions to drugs and without frequent follow up, if at all. The first two weeks of starting a new psychotropic drug can be so intense that the patient cannot sleep, study, or work during this time period. The drugs are prescribed, and the patient does not have access to the psychiatrist until the next appointment, which could ne 30 days later. A patient in an already distressed mental state may not appreciate the dangerous effects the drugs are having and may not reach out for help.

     3.  Failing To Evaluate the Safety of The Environment for A Suicidal Patient

Suicidal risk assessments and psychiatrists almost never ask questions about the suicidal patient's home environment and access to firearms, surplus of prescription drugs, or other items that can be used to commit suicide.  If the patient is in treatment and is a documented suicidal risk, a thorough search of the patient's room and areas of access should be inspected for anything that could be used as a ligature or sharp item. Don't assume that because a patient is in a locked facility, the patient is safe.  Many things including shoelaces, plastic forks, and the patient's own pants can be used. If the patient is not in a locked facility, it is even more urgent that the psychiatrist communicate with the family so a home inspection can be done. 

     4.  Failing to Review a Patient's Health and Neurological History for Other Causes.

There are neurological, physical, and hormonal causes of mood disorders that almost never are investigated. Psychiatrists who are not practicing in a hospital setting are far removed from medical pathology and treatments.  A psychiatrist may start a patient on a course of potent psychotropic drugs rather than investigating all of the sources of mood changes, decreased levels of consciousness, or altered mental states.  Be sure to ask what other medical causes contribute to mood disorders and if the psychiatrist doesn't know or has no suggestions, see someone else. 

The treatment of mental illness should be a holistic experience where families, caretakers, therapists, and other medical providers collaborate for the best outcome. If you, a friend, or a loved one is seeking mental health care, make sure the patient has support to make sure the psychiatrist and others are providing the best care. 

Sherman Law investigates and prosecutes psychiatrists and psychiatric hospitals whose negligence leads to patient death. Your consultation is private and confidential. There is no fee, unless there is a recovery. Take ACTION now before its too late.  Statute of limitations apply.  

About the Author

Stephanie Sherman

On June 1, 2022, I joined the nationwide award-winning law firm, Baum Hedlund.  I am grateful to join this elite group of trailblazers that is so deeply committed to taking on tough cases and fighting for the underdog. You can still reach me here, via my bio page or at 800-827-0087. Stephani...


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