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Journal of Psychiatric Practice:
doi: 10.1097/01.pra.0000413275.09305.d5
Articles

Psychiatrists’ Emotional Reactions to Patient Suicidal Behavior

SCOCCO, PAOLO MD; TOFFOL, ELENA MD; PILOTTO, ELISA MD; PERTILE, RICCARDO PhD

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Abstract

Background. Psychopathology is a risk factor for suicidal behavior. It is likely that psychiatrists will have to deal with an attempted or completed suicide by a patient at some point in their careers. The goal of this study was to assess psychiatrists’ emotional reactions to patients’ suicidal behavior. Methods. Data were collected using a questionnaire that was administered to psychiatrists after a completed or attempted suicide by one of their patients. Results. Thirty-four psychiatrists participated in the study and reported on 62 attempted suicides and 11 completed suicides. All of the participants reported at least one emotion following the event. After an attempted suicide, trainees were more likely than consultants to experience psychological pain, guilt, self-doubt, and frustration. Being a trainee was also associated with psychological pain, guilt, fear, self-doubt, and frustration in regression analysis. Shock, disbelief, fear, self-doubt, and embarrassment were associated with completed rather than attempted suicides. Conclusions. Attempted and completed suicides have a significant impact on psychiatrists. The impact of an attempted suicide is usually less severe. The patterns of reaction differ between consultant and trainee psychiatrists. (Journal of Psychiatric Practice 2012;18:94–108).

© 2012 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.

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