In the UK, at least a quarter of suicides occurs in patients whilst under the care of mental health services. This study investigated the effects of such deaths on non-medical mental health clinicians. An online survey was conducted within a single NHS mental health Trust to elicit both quantitative and qualitative responses from staff across a range of professions. The survey focused on personal and professional impacts and available support. Participants reported significant negative emotional and professional effects that were long-lasting for some. These included mental health difficulties, loss of confidence regarding clinical responsibilities, and actual or contemplated career change. However, there was also some evidence of positive effects and professional growth. Support from colleagues and line managers is clearly important following deaths of patients by suicide. Clinicians' experiences of the support they had received in the workplace were polarized, suggesting that there is no single nor ideal approach that will meet everyone's needs. Participants made recommendations for the types of support that may be helpful. Most commonly, clinicians desired opportunities for focused reflection and support and help with the formal processes following the death. Sensitivity around how clinicians are notified about the death was highlighted as being particularly important. Conclusions are drawn as to how training institutions and employers can help staff to be better prepared for the potential occurrence of patient suicides and the formal processes that follow, with a view to mitigating risks of more serious harm to staff and hence indirectly to patients, and potential loss of highly trained clinicians to the workforce.
Int J Ment Health Nurs
clinicians, effects, mental health, patient, suicide