Spotlight on Mental Health’s Benefit to Everyone
by Elizabeth A. Kaveny
Simone Biles’ exit from the women’s gymnastics team events of the Tokyo Games brought great global attention to mental health. In the weeks and months following, the story generated more than 2 million social media interactions, with supporters praising her brave decision to admit the intense pressure and stress were affecting her mental health and ability to perform. Critics found nothing brave or heroic about quitting, but rather it to be the selfish decision of a weak person. Regardless of which viewpoint you share on Biles’ exit, or Naomi Osaka’s withdrawal from the French Open citing long bouts of depression, the athletes’ actions have drawn great attention to the topic of mental health. That focus can only serve to benefit the whole.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, major depression leading to suicide is an immense public health concern and among the leading causes of death in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide was the second leading cause of death among individuals between the ages of 10 and 34, and the fourth leading cause of death among individuals between the ages of 35 and 44. Join that with the recognition of medical errors as the third leading cause of death across the board, and it becomes necessary to examine how mental health issues and suicide are being handled medically.
“As horrific as any suicide is, those committed while being treated inpatient for depression and suicidality are particularly inexcusable,” comments Elizabeth A. Kaveny, Managing Partner of Kaveny + Kroll Trial Lawyers (www.kavenykroll.com), “In-patient suicides have been recognized by the National Quality Form as a never event. Never events are errors so egregious that they should never happen to a patient under any circumstances and are recognized as such by medicine and the law.
Elizabeth Kaveny obtained the largest verdict from a Cook County jury for a patient’s attempted suicide while inpatient at the behavioral health unit of one of Chicagoland’s premiere hospitals. Citing violations of its own policies and procedures, such as failing to check on the patient every 15 minutes while on suicide watch, and giving the patient access to a knife, Kaveny was able to show that the hospital was so egregiously negligent to warrant a substantial remedy in his behalf.
Kaveny has become known in Illinois for her representation of both inpatients who attempt or successfully commit suicide, as well as the families of individuals who were identified as high-risk for suicide yet discharged without the appropriate level of oversight and care.
“One of the major myths of suicide is that if a patient wants to kill themselves, they will,” says Kaveny. “Medical studies show that’s just not true.”
Rather, with the right treatment plan consisting of medication, therapy and time, individuals can learn to live with depression and obtain the coping skills needed to respond when their depression rises to an unbearable level. Perhaps one of the more public figures in this arena is another Olympian Michael Phelps. Phelps has been public about his continuing battle with mental health and has discussed the suicidal tendencies that still exist and how he, his family and his medical team work together to keep them at bay.
“Whether an Olympian or an everyday person, we are all entitled to receive appropriate medical care to address our health issues. That includes our mental health as much as our physical,” says Kaveny. “When that doesn’t occur, it’s my job to step in and show the inadequacies of care. That is my mission and commitment.”