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

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  19 February 2019

P. T. Murphy
Affiliation:
Galway Mental Health Service, HSE West, Health Centre, Brackernagh, Ballinasloe, Galway, Ireland Department of Psychology, HSE West, Merlin Park University Hospital, Galway, Ireland Department of Psychiatry, University Hospital Galway, Galway, Ireland
L. Clogher
Affiliation:
Department of Psychology, HSE West, Merlin Park University Hospital, Galway, Ireland
A. van Laar
Affiliation:
Department of Liaison Psychiatry, University Hospital Galway, Galway, Ireland
R. O’Regan
Affiliation:
Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services, Inpatient Unit, Merlin Park Hospital Galway, Galway, Ireland
S. McManus
Affiliation:
Department of Psychology, HSE West, Merlin Park University Hospital, Galway, Ireland
A. McIntyre
Affiliation:
Department of Psychiatry, University Hospital Galway, Galway, Ireland
A. O’Connell
Affiliation:
Department of Psychology, HSE West, Merlin Park University Hospital, Galway, Ireland
M. Geraghty
Affiliation:
Department of Psychiatry, University Hospital Galway, Galway, Ireland
G. Henry
Affiliation:
Department of Psychiatry, University Hospital Galway, Galway, Ireland
B. Hallahan
Affiliation:
Department of Psychiatry, University Hospital Galway, Galway, Ireland School of Medicine, National University of Ireland Galway, Galway, Ireland
Corresponding
E-mail address:

Abstract

Objectives

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.

Methods

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

Results

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.

Conclusion

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.

Type
Original Research
Copyright
© College of Psychiatrics of Ireland 2019 

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