Recently a news article hit the press about a high school principal that hypnotized students…a lot of them… as many as 75 of the students were seen for sports or educational enhancement. Then, three committed suicide. This happened years ago in 2011. The reason it is in the press today is because the school settled with each of the surviving families for $200,000 for a total of $600,000. That’s a lot of money and it’s news. Yet, the perception is that hypnotism was somehow the cause of each student’s death as if they were given a diabolic suggestion to end it all. The loss of these young students is a tragic story, as are all suicides. The grief and guilt left by the living who once shared their sphere of life is painful. I know because I too was left feeling guilty years ago when a friend made that fateful choice that left us all wondering what we missed…what we could have done.
Suicide is a serious issue in our society. Yet, I am confident when I say that hypnotism was not the cause of these young deaths. In my hypnosis practice, much of the work I do is to help those who have suffered long term abuse, loss, loneliness or significant self confidence issues. Many times a person that makes the choice to take their life feels isolated, alone and in their perception, they have no further options. Sometimes they are in a state that limits their ability to see any hope for happiness in their life. Sometimes they have embarrassment or regret for actions they took, or perhaps didn’t take in some situation. Sometimes their confidence is so low that self worth doesn’t measure a penny’s worth in their own perception. Notice that I mention ‘perception’ because they way we see things are not always true.
This is the work I do with my clients. I have seen hypnotism absolutely turn around lives once the client has had a glimpse of a brighter future; all by a change of perception. Granted, if I had a client tell me they were considering suicide I would not leave their side and ensure they get the proper medical care. I am not a medical provider so I am bound by the National Guild of Hypnotist’s Code of Ethics to operate solely within the scope of my practice. I will say that with all the abuse and trauma clients I’ve seen, I have always watched lives move toward a positive direction from hypnotism. A person who wants help and pursues hypnotism as a means to build their confidence and overall outlook leaves at the end of the sessions feeling good about themselves and has a bright outlook on their future.
Now getting back to the high school, there are a number of issues with this case. According to one article, the principal “Diagnosed” one of the students with anxiety. I don’t know if he was a member of any governing body like the National Guild of Hypnotists. My guess is that he was NOT. According to the NGH Code of Ethics, hypnotists cannot (or will not) diagnose any disorder unless they are a licensed medical professional.
Anxiety is medically listed disorder in the DSM-5, the manual that is used by licensed psychologists and psychiatrists. In my case, I don’t work with “Anxiety” but I can work with fears or worries (something outside a medical disorder).
It’s important for a hypnotist to operate within the scope of their practice. He apparently did not have a medical license since he was also charged with not having one as a requirement of his state.
Being that the students were minors, he should not have been doing hypnosis work without parental permission. And then, even with permission if a person came to him that was “diagnosed with a disorder”, he should have gotten a medical referral first.
A person is always in control during hypnosis and would not do anything or say anything that they don’t want to do. Of all my clients that I’ve seen for confidence or the need to begin living beyond tragic incidents, I have never had a client tell me they are worse and now feel as though they want to kill themselves. In my experience, hypnotism always helps the client move forward and they have a renewed, positive outlook on life afterwards.
In the case of these students, their suicide cannot be tied to hypnosis. This guy went beyond the scope of his educational position as a principal. The likelihood of the suicides being linked to hypnosis is an easy blame just by the quantity of those he hypnotized. If he had not hypnotized any student at all and they still committed suicide, then the school would be looking at other issues like bullying, drug use or some other factor.
Because he went beyond his job, it’s an easy blame for hypnosis and they filed a suit. The school likely settled because there was a conflict of interest and misuse in his position as a principal, and operating outside the legal and ethical realm of a hypnotist.
It’s one thing if he wanted to do hypnosis as a part time thing, but he blurred the lines by including it as something he does as a principal and clearly strayed outside the scope of his practice.
Hypnotism is and continues to be a safe resource for people seeking life change, gaining control of habits, enhancing educational or sports skills, or to build a stronger sense of confidence, allowing them to live a happier, healthier life. With a proper medical referral, hypnotism can be a healthy, drug-free way to compliment ongoing medical or dental care. As you seek a Certified Consulting Hypnotist, it is important to ensure they are properly trained and operate within moral and ethical guidelines of a professional organization like the National Guild of Hypnotist’s.
I don’t believe hypnosis had anything to do with it.
Anthony M. Davis, CCH