It’s a tragic reality that generations of cuts to mental health funding in Ohio has led to a lack of services for people in the state who need them. In the 50 or so years since the state began phasing out psychiatric hospitals, the burden has shifted to a patchwork of community services that do not have the capacity to help everyone.
Unfortunately, jails have become the new mental health service providers. Prison suicide is a regular occurrence, as people with untreated illnesses often find themselves in trouble with the law. A report from the World Health Organization in 2007 called inmates a high-risk group for suicide, in part because many inmates have struggled with suicidal behaviors their entire lives.
Jails are not the only settings where residents are at risk of suicide. Some of Ohio’s most vulnerable citizens, residing in nursing homes or seeking in-patient treatment for addiction, often lose their lives to suicide. In some cases, the institution has failed to do its job to protect citizens from all harm, including self-harm.
Role of Institutions
Residents of detox centers, jails and nursing homes are usually not there by choice. Part of the responsibility of the institutions who care for them is to ensure their safety. When suicide in jail occurs, questions must be asked of the institution’s protocols, training and staff competence.
For example, a suicide watch program may not protect individuals or institutions from liability. Such programs are not always effective. Some may involve only television monitoring or put inmates in an environment of solitary confinement that makes their mental struggle even worse.
In a nursing home setting, inadequate medical care may prevent intervention that could stop a potential suicide. Such terrible events have occurred even after a patient has demonstrated alarming signs that intervention was necessary. Authorities must meet a set standard of quality of care to prevent suicide in nursing homes.
Legal Options for Families
After a jail suicide, survivors may take legal action against the prison and possibly its agents — managers and individual staff — for failing to prevent the event. From a legal perspective, this falls under the law of negligence, which means a party did not meet the standard of care expected.
While it’s the role of governments to fine or sanction an institution, a family can sue the parties responsible. A lawsuit, which a personal injury lawyer can help you to launch, can result in monetary damages against the institution and bring the failure of protocols to light in order to stop future tragedies from happening.
FDS Law and jail suicide experts can help. Contact us for a free consultation about your options.