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What You Should Know

Mental Health Impairments Common Issue In America

Many individuals struggle with mental health issues at one time or another during their lives. In fact, an estimated 26 percent of Americans ages 18 and over (which is about 1 in 4 adults) suffers from a diagnosable mental disorder in any given year, according to the National Institutes of Health.

Some of the more common mental health diagnoses include depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and anxiety disorders, such as panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), and phobias (including social phobia, agoraphobia, and other specific phobias). Often times, an individual may suffer from more than one mental impairment at a given time. For example, depression-based illnesses may co-occur with anxiety disorders or substance abuse.

Medical Treatment For Those Suffering From Mental Illnesses

Individuals who experience mental illnesses may seek medical help for their impairments. Various medical practitioners may be involved in providing medical treatment or counseling to those with mental disabilities. These providers may include:

psychiatrists– medical doctors (MD) with 4 or more years of psychiatric training (residency) following graduation from medical school. They can prescribe drugs and admit patients to the hospital.

psychologists- practitioners who have a master’s degree or PhD, but not a medical degree (MD). They can perform counseling but cannot do physical examinations, prescribe drugs (in most states), or admit patients to the hospital.

psychiatric social workers- social workers with specific training, which may include individual, marital, or family therapy. They may hold a master’s degree or a PhD. They cannot perform physical examinations or prescribe medications.

advanced practice psychiatric nurses– registered nurses (RNs) with a master’s degree or higher education and training in behavioral health. They may prescribe drugs or medications under the supervision of a licensed physician (MD).

primary physician– physicians who may be a family medicine doctor or internal medicine doctor, and who may prescribe medications or therapies to treat mental health disorders.

A mental health practitioner who provides diagnosis, treatment, or medications to an individual is required to provide a level of care and service that other such professionals would provide under similar circumstances. If this duty is breached, the mental health provider may be held liable for any resulting damages.

For example, a county mental health complex recently settled claims brought by the estate of a symphony musician who died while receiving mental health treatment. The musician, who had played with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the Moody Blues, died of complications from sleep apnea and obesity. He was supposed to be checked every 15 minutes, according to a doctor’s order. However, there were no staff notes made in the medical record to indicate that he had been seen on the night before or the morning of his death. According to a board certified psychiatrist, “In my opinion (the patient) was admitted to the acute psychiatric unit with severe respiratory problems that were inadequately assessed and treated throughout his hospitalization such that he remained vulnerable to serious medical complications and death.”

Tallahassee Legal Help For Psychiatric Medical Malpractice

Doctors, psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, nurses and other medical professionals may be liable for medical malpractice if they do not act with the required level of professional care in carrying out their duties. If you have questions about injuries you or a loved one sustained while receiving mental health care, contact the experienced Tallahassee medical malpractice attorneys at Fasig & Brooks today at (850) 583-9409 or use our convenient online contact form. We are here to listen to you and explain your options for pursuing your legal rights.