The impact on mental health practitioners of the death of a patient by suicide: a systematic review

Sandford, D. M., Kirtley, O. J., Thwaites, R. and O'Connor, R. (2021) The impact on mental health practitioners of the death of a patient by suicide: a systematic review. Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy, 28(2), pp. 261-294. (doi: 10.1002/cpp.2515) (PMID:32914489)

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Abstract

There is a growing body of research investigating the impact on mental health professionals of losing a patient through suicide. However, the nature and extent of the impact is unclear. This systematic review synthesises both quantitative and qualitative studies in the area. The aim was to review the literature on the impact of losing a patient through suicide with respect to both personal and professional practice responses as well as the support received. A search of the major psychological and medical databases was conducted, using keywords including suicide, patient, practitioner and impact, which yielded 3942 records. 54 studies were included in the final narrative synthesis. Most common personal reactions in qualitative studies included guilt, shock, sadness, anger and blame. Impact on professional practice included self‐doubt and being more cautious and defensive in the management of suicide risk. As quantitative study methodologies were heterogeneous, it was difficult to make direct comparisons across studies. However, 13 studies (total n = 717 practitioners) utilised the Impact of Event Scale, finding that between 12% and 53% of practitioners recorded clinically significant scores. The need for training that is focused on the impact of suicides and the value placed upon informal support were often cited. The experience of losing a patient through suicide can have a significant impact on mental health professionals, both in terms of their personal reactions and subsequent changes to professional practice. The negative impact, however, may be moderated by cultural and organisational factors and by the nature of support available.

Item Type:Articles
Status:Published
Refereed:Yes
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Sandford, David and O'Connor, Professor Rory and Kirtley, Dr Olivia
Authors: Sandford, D. M., Kirtley, O. J., Thwaites, R., and O'Connor, R.
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > Institute of Health and Wellbeing > Mental Health and Wellbeing
Journal Name:Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy
Publisher:Wiley
ISSN:1063-3995
ISSN (Online):1099-0879
Published Online:10 September 2020
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2020 The Authors
First Published:First published in Psychology 28(2): 261-294
Publisher Policy:Reproduced under a Creative Commons License

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