Self-Care and Peer Support – Suicide Support and Information

A death by suicide affects many people, including mental health professionals the deceased was in contact with. The suicide may come as a shock to the mental health professional, or as the inevitable ending to a long development of adversity. Whatever the link and relationship was to the client, it is important to take the time to integrate the death, professionally and personally. Research suggests that practitioners need a personal or professional support system to help them cope in the aftermath of suicide. Try to link in with peers who have had similar experiences and understand how they came to terms with the death.  It may be helpful to speak with a mentor or seek therapeutic support to prevent burnout or stress. Take time to grieve the client, and be patient with yourself if you have feelings of anger, frustration or disappointment. It may be possible to eventually develop a dual view of suicide, with acceptance of the suicide of the client being held alongside a belief that future suicides can be prevented. Depending on the context of the death and the personal circumstances, some mental health professionals may suffer post-traumatic stress disorder, distress, or burnout in the aftermath of a client suicide. It is important to seek professional help if you feel that the death is continuing to affect you.

In the context of a demanding practice, mental health professionals are encouraged to engage in broader self-care, paying attention to physical, social, emotional and spiritual wellbeing.

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Professor Eugene Cassidy, Consultant Liaison Psychiatrist and Clinical Professor University College Cork/Cork University Hospital, outlines the importance of self-care for frontline staff and mental health professionals, including informal and formal supports available.