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“John Doe exhibited the following symptoms which required his partial hospitalization treatment: suicidal, depressed, withdrawn, anxious, constricted, hopelessness, and overcome with depression and suicidal thoughts.”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 concerns.”
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 or psychotic.”
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: https://afsp.org/find-support/im-having-thoughts-of-suicide/
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.