Suicide. It’s not an easy topic to talk or blog about. But thankfully,
through the hard work of people such as Pete Domenici, Ted and Patrick
Kennedy, Paul Wellstone, Jim Ramstad, and so many amazing organizations like
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and the
Crisis Text Line, we live in a day and age where we can talk about suicide . Yet, there
remains much stigma around mental illness and suicide.
Stigma exists in many places and in many forms. At
Kantor & Kantor, LLP, we see this stigma first-hand when insurance companies deny our clients
the mental health benefits they need to get treatment. Every time we think
we have read or heard about the most egregious denial, we read another
egregious denial. Here are a few examples:
BlueCross Blue Shield of Illinois denied one of our clients saying, “You
were not reported as being an imminent danger to self or others.”
On the very day they denied our client benefits, his doctor noted, “John
Doe exhibited the following symptoms which required his partial hospitalization
treatment: suicidal, depressed, withdrawn, anxious, constricted, hopelessness,
and overcome with depression and suicidal thoughts.” And, three
days prior to insurance’s denial, our client stated outright, “I
can’t really stand being myself. I wake up every day and I’m
just completely depressed or can’t feel anything. I don’t
want to do it anymore.” BlueCross Blue Shield of Illinois denied
partial hospitalization treatment to our client, despite the fact that
he had researched how and where to purchase chemicals with which he planned
to suicide. How they felt our client was not an “imminent danger”
to himself is nothing short of absurd. Our client was left with the options
of: leaving treatment after ONE day of treatment, when insurance denied,
or, come up with the $30,000 to pay for treatment while we worked on his
case. NO ONE should have to face such stigma.
A client who was a veteran of several tours in Iraq was denied treatment
for depression, PTSD and suicidal ideation. His insurance company ignored
the fact that veterans returning from Iraq access mental health treatment
at a much higher rate than those returning from Afghanistan or those in
any other category. His insurance company also ignored the fact that our
client suffered three of the most common diagnoses among returning-vets:
PTSD, major depression and generalized anxiety. Those three diagnoses,
combined with our client’s long exposure to combat, increased his
risk of suicide by up to 200 times. Yet, his insurance company denied
treatment saying, “The identified self-care concerns would not keep
you from participating in treatment at a lower level of care.” Our
client’s diagnoses and suffering were not simply “self-care
Finally, an insurance company recently denied one of our clients who tried
multiple ways to kill herself but “wasn’t successful.”
While she was being assessed at a treatment center, waiting for insurance
to authorize benefits, she stated, “I can’t promise that I
will succeed but there is an 8/10 chance I will try.” Her insurance
company denied treatment stating, “She is not suicidal, homicidal
These denials break our heart. Especially because we know that all too
often, the result is…suicide.
Suicide Is Preventable. Jeff Thompson, Ph.D., is a NYPD detective, trainer
and researcher, who
wrote an article on National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month for the American Foundation
of Suicide Prevention. According to Dr. Thompson, “Suicide is preventable,
and one of the best ways to help someone experiencing suicidal thoughts
is to engage them in conversation. In my work as a crisis negotiator in
law enforcement, I have been reminded time and time again that communication
skills are crucial to helping someone in need.” Dr. Thompson went
on to say, “Feelings associated with a suicidal crisis include hopelessness,
helplessness, isolation, and the sense that there are no other options.
You can use active listening skills — along with some compassion
— to let the person know that there is hope; they are not alone;
and that they do have options.”
People considering suicide need us to care. We cannot discount their feelings.
We need to realize their suffering is real. Insurance companies to realize
that treatment is not debatable – it is necessary and might be lifesaving.
If you or someone you know are someone suffering, PLEASE do not give up.
There is hope and there is help. We are here to help and so are the following
organizations (not an exhaustive list):
CrisisTextLine.org – Text 741741 from anywhere in the USA to text
with a trained Crisis Counselor.
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention:
We hope that the words and resources in this blog encourage you to know
that YOU ARE NOT alone, we are here with you and we will fight for you.
You are not meant to be a statistic. #YouAreNecessary.
At Kantor & Kantor, we work to put an end to the stigma surrounding
mental health. We will stand up to your insurance company if they deny
your treatment.. If you or someone you know is suffering and you are being
denied benefits for treatment by your insurance, please call Kantor &
Kantor for a free consultation at (888) 569-6013 or fill out our online
contact form. We understand, and we can help.
This blog is dedicated to
Senator Pete Domenici who passed away yesterday at the age of 85.