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A Patient's Suicide

Onja Grad, Ph.D., University Psychiatric Hospital, Medical School, University of Ljubljana, Slovenia

….Experiencing a patient’s suicide is a rite of passage for each therapist (Gitlin, 1999): “to survive it is testimony to one’s hardiness, endurance, and being a real physician."

It is necessary to think about “before and after." Rule number one is to offer good training programmes for the trainees in psychiatry, psychology and nursing that prepare future clinicians for the real work with a suicidal patient. But if they do experience a patient’s suicide (which they probably will, as this is an inevitable occupational hazard of working with selected suicidal population), every institution should prepare a flexible postvention protocol to support and serve the individual needs of the therapist and diminish their feelings of being socially isolated from their colleagues. The best solution would be to achieve a balance between prescribed, compulsory, formal procedures, which will serve administrative and educational needs of the therapist and the institution, and the self-chosen, more informal ones that offer the therapists the most appropriate and convenient form to accept this difficult experience in their professional life…..


Gitlin M.J. (1999). A psychiatrist′s reaction to a patient′s suicide (case conf). American Journal of  Psychiatry, 156, 1630-1634.

From the chapter:

Grad, O. (2009). Therapists as suicide survivors, In Wasserman, D. & Wasserman, C. (eds.), Oxford Textbook of Suicidology and Suicide Prevention, Oxford University Press, pp. 83-86.


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