Phillips & Paolicelli Attorneys Represent Families In Lawsuits Alleging That Campus Mental Health Services Overlooked Clear Warnings Signs For Suicide

In the United States, suicide was the tenth leading cause of death in 2013. According to the CDC, there were 41,149 suicides in the United States in that year alone.

Students entering college are particularly vulnerable to depression and anxiety. They face intense pressure to succeed, even while they are adjusting to an entirely new social environment. Since many are away from home for the first time, they are removed from their families, communities, and familiar sources of support. Many are anxious about the high cost of tuition, and the mounting debt that they will face. In short, while the newfound freedom and independence of college is exciting for some, the numerous changes can leave other students feeling isolated or struggling with depression.

Scholarly research reflects that mental illness is more widespread than many appreciate. The American College Health Association found that more than half of college students reported experiencing “overwhelming anxiety” over the course of a single year. Over 30 percent of students recalled feeling so depressed “that it was difficult to function.” Nearly 40 percent reported feeling that “things were hopeless.” The National Alliance on Mental Illness also found that 73% of students living with mental health conditions suffered from a mental health crisis while in college.

Some universities provide mental health services for free, in a confidential setting. When quality care is available, it can be a great benefit in assisting students to remain enrolled, and helping them to receive the supports that they need. However, the increasing demand for mental health services has left many others without quality care. Budget increases implemented in an attempt to meet the increasing demand for services have proven inadequate to address the needs of students on many campuses, according to media reports.

In universities without adequate support, students can face difficulties meeting academic goals and integrating into their social environment. This can lead to their leaving school, and an increased risk of self-destructive behavior, including suicide attempts.

According to the American College Health Association, more than 9% of students surveyed reported seriously considering a suicide attempt at least once in a 12 month period. Among college students, suicide is now the second most common cause of death. This crisis is a pressing social issue that colleges must develop protocols to address and prevent.

The attorneys at Phillips & Paolicelli wish to bring attention to the seriousness of mental illness, and the deficiencies in care being provided to some adolescents and young adults. It is essential that colleges and universities recognize the vulnerability of their students, and provide appropriate services and develop protocols to effectively address life-threatening mental illness.

Dan Woodard and Ari Taub, attorneys at Phillips & Paolicelli, LLP have recently filed two lawsuits in New York on the behalf of families who lost their children to suicide. In both cases, the families allege that tragic losses could have been prevented if universities had responded swiftly and appropriately to students in distress. Instead, they did not follow proper protocols or render quality care to their students, missing a critical window in which to intervene and make a difference.

Phillips & Paolicelli’s work in this area has received media attention (such as here and here) because few law firms have brought suits challenging inadequate mental health care. It is our hope that more resources will be devoted to providing high quality mental health services on campus, to enable vulnerable students to receive the care they need and avoid future tragedies.

“Although the care they are providing may be free, it needs to be in accordance with the appropriate standards of psychological and psychiatric care,” states Mr. Woodard.  “Depression is a treatable disease. Students need to receive the appropriate care to combat it and succeed despite it.”

Contact Phillips & Paolicelli LLP to Learn More About Filing a Personal Injury or Wrongful Death Lawsuit

Phillips & Paolicelli LLP is a nationally recognized Plaintiffs’ law firm. Its attorneys have devoted decades to representing families in personal injury, medical malpractice, birth defect, environmental, and wrongful death cases. Attorneys at Phillips & Paolicelli LLP have extensive experience representing injured children and their families, and have recovered hundreds of millions of dollars on behalf of families suffering mental and physical injuries nationwide.

If you believe that you may have a legal claim arising from defective medical or psychiatric care, please call us at toll-free at 1-855-220-6770 for a free consultation with one of our attorneys. You can also send us a message online here to inquire about a potential case, or to learn more about how we can assist you.

Lawsuits against universities and health care providers, like all lawsuits, have time limits that are short and strictly enforced. Where the defendant is a government actor, such as a state university, deadlines are extremely short. Families can be required to file a notice of claim within 90 days, the very period when they are still grieving from a recent loss. Failure to consult with counsel within that narrow window of time can prevent families from ever receiving their day in court.

If you believe that you or a loved one has a claim, or are interested in speaking to a professional to explore a possible suit, you should seek legal advice immediately. Contact Phillips & Paolicelli LLP today.

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