Suicide by patients: questionnaire study of its effect on consultant psychiatrists

D A Alexander, S Klein, N M Gray, I G Dewar, J M Eagles

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

143 Citations (Scopus)


Objective To identify the effect of patients' suicide on consultant psychiatrists in Scotland,

Design Confidential coded postal questionnaire sun ev.

Participants Of 315 eligible consultant psychiatrists, 247 (78%) contributed.

Setting Scotland,

Main outcome measures Experience of patient suicide; the features and impact of "most distressing" suicide and what helped them to deal with it.

Results 167 (68%) consultants had had a patient commit suicide under their care. Fifty four (33%) reported being affected personally in terms of low mood, poor sleep, or irritability. Changes in professional practice were described by 69 (42%) of the psychiatrists-for example, a more structured approach to the management of patients at risk and increased use of mental health legislation, Twenty four (15%) doctors considered taking early retirement because of a patient's suicide. Colleagues and family or friends were the best sources of help, and team and critical incident reviews were also useful.

Conclusions Suicide by patients has a substantial emotional and professional effect on consultant psychiatrists. Support from colleagues is helpful, and professional reviews provide opportunities for learning and improved management of suicide and its aftermath.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1571-1574
Number of pages4
JournalBritish Medical Journal
Publication statusPublished - 2000




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