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The impact of service user’s suicide on mental health professionals

  • P. T. Murphy (a1) (a2) (a3), L. Clogher (a2), A. van Laar (a4), R. O’Regan (a5), S. McManus (a2), A. McIntyre (a3), A. O’Connell (a2), M. Geraghty (a3), G. Henry (a3) and B. Hallahan (a3) (a6)...



Our principle objective was to examine the personal and professional impact of service user (SU) suicide on mental health professionals (MHPs). We also wished to explore putative demographic or clinical factors relating to SUs or MPHs that could influence the impact of SU suicide for MHPs and explore factors MHPs report as helpful in reducing distress following SU suicide.


A mixed-method questionnaire with quantitative and thematic analysis was utilised.


Quantitative data indicated SU suicide was associated with personal and professional distress with sadness (79.5%), shock (74.5%) and surprise (68.7%) particularly evident with these phenomena lasting less than a year for more than 90% of MHPs. MHPs also reported guilt, reduced self-confidence and a fear of negative publicity. Thematic analysis indicated that some MHPs had greater expertise when addressing SU suicidal ideation and in supporting colleagues after experiencing a SU suicide. Only 17.7% of MHPs were offered formal support following SU suicide.


SU suicide impacts MHPs personally and professionally in both a positive and negative fashion. A culture and clear pathway of formal support for MHPs to ascertain the most appropriate individualised support dependent on the distress they experience following SU suicide would be optimal.


Corresponding author

*Address for correspondence: Dr Peter T. Murphy, Galway Mental Health Service, HSE West, Health Centre and Day Hospital, Brackernagh, Ballinasloe, Galway, H53 R658, Ireland. (Email:


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