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The psychiatrist's role, responses, and responsibilities when a patient commits suicide
Am J Psychiatry 1991;148:739-743.
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Abstract

The suicide of a patient is not an infrequent event in a psychiatrist's practice, and it has a major impact on the clinician as well as on the patient's family and the hospital staff. Dealing with a patient's suicide is a neglected topic in residency training, and many psychiatrists are never taught how to cope with such a situation. The authors review the relevant literature and draw on this as well as on their own clinical experience to recommend specific interventions. They point out that the psychiatrist has a leadership role and a number of responsibilities in the aftermath of a suicide, including notifying the family, the hospital staff, hospital officials, and patients who knew the deceased patient; meeting with the family, the staff, and the patients to encourage discussion and venting of feelings; attending the funeral; and accurately documenting events in the medical record. The psychiatrist should also attend to his or her own needs by seeking support from a colleague and should ensure that a psychological autopsy is performed in order to facilitate learning, improve care of patients in the future, and help bring about closure for the psychiatrist so that the quality of his or her care of other patients is not compromised.

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