Thursday, September 29, 2016

Bradley Williams Published on Proposed Suicide Prevention Resolution

Stephen Mendelsohn
Second Thoughts
In 2015, Stephen Mendelsohn and Cathy Ludlum, both of the disability rights group, Second Thoughts Connecticut, successfully lobbied Connecticut authorities to recognize that everyone, including people with disabilities, have a right to suicide prevention.

Since then, Mendelsohn, Diane Coleman of the disability rights group, Not Dead Yet, and Marsha Katz of Adapt Montana, have been taking the lead to encourage the amendment of other state prevention plans to specifically include people with disabilities.

Bradley Williams, President
On September 5, 2016, Bradley Williams published a proposed resolution for Montana, to be presented to the Montana Legislature in 2017.  Please find a copy below:

Proposed language for the Montana Strategic Suicide Prevention Plan:

Be it resolved that the following text is added to our Strategic Suicide Prevention Plan 2017:
“People with chronic health conditions and disabilities."

Living with chronic or terminal physical conditions can place significant stress on individuals and families. As with all challenges, individual responses will vary. Cancer, degenerative diseases of the nervous system, traumatic injuries of the central nervous system, epilepsy, HIV/AIDS, chronic kidney disease, arthritis and asthma are known to elevate the risk of mental illness, particularly depression and anxiety disorders. In these situations, integrated medical and behavioral approaches are critical for regularly assessing for suicidality.

Disability-specific risk factors include: a new disability or change in existing disability; difficulties navigating social and financial services; stress of chronic stigma and discrimination; loss or threat of loss of independent living; and institutionalization or hospitalization.

Until recently, the MSSPP was considering assisted suicide of the terminally ill as a separate issue from suicide prevention. The active disability community in Montana, however, has been vocal on the need for suicide prevention services for people with disabilities. There may be unintended consequences of assisted suicide legislation on people with disabilities. People with disabilities have a right to responsive suicide prevention services. The MSSPP intends to continue to explore the needs of the disability community for such services.

Targeted recommendations:

  • Develop greater scrutiny of someone’s intention to die.
  • Identify and train practitioners to develop expertise in the work with disabled people who are suicidal.
  • Do not “assume” suicide is a “rational” response to disability.
  • Treat mental health conditions as aggressively as with a person without disability.
  • MSSPP should encourage and increase participation from the disability community and encourage educational presentations.