Failings in the mental health sector lead to preventable suicide

Sep 8th, 2021

Andrew Cragg, Partner

World Suicide Prevention Day is observed on 10 September each year.  The day has been marked since 2003, the purpose of which is to provide worldwide commitment and action to prevent suicide.

Statistics show that in the UK men are three times as likely to die by suicide than women.  The statistics for death by suicide lag considerably and the latest statistics show that there were 4,902 suicides registered in England in 2020, which is equivalent to 9.9 suicide deaths per 100,000 people.  This is a significant reduction upon the rate in 2019 where there were 10.8 suicide deaths per 100,000 people.  However, these statistics should be noted with caution because the reason for the reduction, at least partially, is likely to reflect delays in Coroners’ Inquests identifying cause of death, as opposed to there being a genuine decrease in suicide.

Suicide is preventable. The statistics set out above are shocking for anybody to read.

Andrew Cragg, partner in medical negligence at Langleys Solicitors, says:

“Conversation surrounding mental health is more open now than it ever has been.  We have seen in recent months high profile sports stars opening up about their mental health struggles and taking action where necessary to protect their own mental health.  These actions certainly help to encourage us all to be open about our own, and others, mental health but this is not enough.

 “Mental health services in the UK are under-funded and under-resourced.  Sadly, I see too often, through my speciality of advising on legal claims arising as a result of preventable suicide, failings that can occur in the mental health sector, and the impact which these have on victims and their families.

“As a society, we need to continue to be kind to others and look out for one another.  In the workplace, especially at Langleys Solicitors, the well-being of our teams is key and asking how somebody is and more importantly, waiting to hear the answer is now expected behaviour.  Sometimes this is not enough though and, in those situations, professional help is needed.  

“If anyone is struggling to cope, Samaritans have a free service which is available around the clock every single day of the year and can be contacted on 116 123 (UK and Ireland). 

“If in the very worst case scenario and lawyers do need to be consulted, as a consequence of a preventable suicide, it is important to note that help navigating the Coronial process is available and most specialist clinical negligence solicitors will provide this assistance and thereafter assist in establishing a legal claim, through the Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1934, Fatal Accidents Act 1976 and under the Human Rights Act 1998.

“It is important to note the timescales, called the Limitation period, of pursuing such claims, particularly under the Human Rights Act whereby such a claim must be brought within one year of the date of death, compared to three years where claims are being pursued under the Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1934 and Fatal Accidents Act 1976.  This means that the claim must be concluded within these timescales and if not, Court Proceedings must be issued to protect the claim going forwards.  

“Another alternative is to seek an extension to the Limitation Period.  Defendants are prepared to consider extensions to a Limitation Period which is especially helpful in a claim relating to the Human Rights Act because, unfortunately, due to the nature of the investigations required by the Coroner, and due to Covid-19, it is often the case that the Inquest process is still ongoing at or around the one year anniversary of death.  In the event that an agreement to extend the Limitation Period cannot be reached, there will be a need to issue Court Proceedings.

“As with all medical negligence claims, it is best to seek advice from a specialist medical negligence practitioner and one who holds membership of the Law Society’s Clinical Negligence Accreditation Scheme, the AvMA (Action Against Medical Accidents) Specialist Clinical Negligence Panel or APIL Specialist Accreditation.”

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Andrew Cragg


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