Family suing Iowa for their son's suicide

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - The family of a Linn County man who killed himself while at college filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the State of Iowa blaming poor mental health services and funding for his suicide.

In November 2015, Dane Schussler committed suicide while he was a student at Iowa State University. His parents, Kathryn and Jeffery Schussler, filed the wrongful death lawsuit in February.

The lawsuit claims he had gone to the University's Student Counseling Center less than two months earlier complaining of suicidal thoughts. This was his first issue with mental health. However, the family claims the center did not respond adequately or refer him to a more appropriate source for help.

The lawsuit claims ISU knew the Counseling Center was underfunded and understaffed. It cites a letter the center's former director, Dr. Terry Mason, sent in June 2012 warning of a "mental health disaster" without adequate funding and staff.

Dr. Mason was fired in 2015, about 4 months before Schussler's suicide. The lawsuit says he won a lawsuit claiming his firing was retaliation under the Iowa Whistleblower Act.

The lawsuit says the state of Iowa is liable for Schussler's suicide for failing to provide Dane with sufficiently trained and
supervised counselors for his mental health needs, for "failing to properly evaluate the mental health of Dane Michael Schussler and for failing to intervene to prevent his suicide, including utilizing family members to assist in his recovery and in failing to refer him to a more appropriate source for his mental health needs."

In a request for summary judgement to dismiss the lawsuit, the state argued it can't be held liable for someone harming themselves and that Schussler's suicide was mostly a result of his own actions.