How Patient Suicide Affects Psychiatrists

March 06, 2015

News Type:  Weekly Spark, Weekly Spark News

The Atlantic

The grief that mental health providers feel when they lose a patient to suicide is often compounded by feelings of guilt, as well as isolation due to stigma both within and outside their profession. In addition, these providers are sometimes advised not to talk about the case, if there is a chance of litigation by the patient’s family. The Clinician Survivor Task Force, a project of the American Association of Suicidology, offers support to practitioners who have been bereaved by the suicide of a patient, loved one, or friend. Paul Quinnett, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral science at the University of Washington School of Medicine, works on improving understanding of suicide for mental health professionals. While firmly rejecting the assumption that suicide is inevitable, he noted that “There are lots of clinicians who lose patients to suicide in the course of their career… That’s why people need the very best training they can get, to learn how to work effectively with people considering ending their own lives.”