Thirteen-Year-Old Girl Takes Her Own Life at Brattleboro Retreat | Off Message

Thirteen-Year-Old Girl Takes Her Own Life at Brattleboro Retreat


Police and administrators at the Brattleboro Retreat are investigating the apparent suicide Friday night of a 13-year-old girl who was under the care of the psychiatric hospital's adolescent residential program. A brief statement released by the Retreat over the weekend reads:

“It is with great sadness that we report the tragic death of a 13-year-old female who took her life Friday evening, January 3. The individual was receiving care in one of the Brattleboro Retreat's residential homes adjacent to the Retreat's main campus. The family was notified immediately and the Retreat is now working with the appropriate authorities and agencies to thoroughly investigate the circumstances of this incident.  As we proceed with the investigation, our prayers and thoughts go out to this young person's family and loved ones.”

Hospital administrators were not available Monday morning to comment further, as all were in a meeting to discuss the incident and Brattleboro Police said only that the investigation is ongoing. The Brattleboro Reformer reported Monday morning that the girl had been living at the Retreat since November but was not a patient in the state's acute psychiatric unit. Her name and hometown have not been made public.

The January 3 suicide is the third in two years at the Retreat. In January 2012, a patient died of a drug overdose. Then in September 2013, a 36-year-old patient was found dead in the bathroom of a Retreat-run residence hall. Vermont’s medical examiner later determined that the woman, who was in an intensive, Retreat-run outpatient program, had committed suicide. It was two days before her body was discovered.

As Seven Days reported in its December 18, 2013 story, "Can 'Niches in Inpatient Psychiatry' Redeem the Brattleboro Retreat?" the 179-year-old psychiatric hospital has struggled to repair its tarnished image following a spate of negative publicity. 

Last May, the Retreat failed its second review in four months by the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and faced the potential loss of its federal funding if deficiencies weren’t corrected. The Retreat’s correction plan forestalled those cuts. However, as Vermont Commons' Olga Peters reported in September, an unannounced visit by CMS in mid-July determined that the Retreat's staff had again run afoul of federal policy by calling the Brattleboro Police to assist with restraining uncooperative patients. 

It wasn't immediately clear whether this latest incident would trigger another investigation by CMS. Seven Days has left messages for officials at the agency seeking comment and will update this post if and when they reply. 

Photo by Robert Swanson.