What is the postvention for families of an individual who has died of suicide?

Updated: Aug 29, 2019
  • Author: Stephen Soreff, MD; Chief Editor: Glen L Xiong, MD  more...
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This section details steps a clinician should take in cases of completed suicide. Practitioners must work with the patient's family and friends, as well as with the other patients who knew the deceased. [140]

Upon learning of the death of a patient, focus on the immediate situation. Reschedule other patients and, whenever possible, meet with the family. Family members appreciate the clinician's interest and the opportunity to voice their feelings and reactions. In some situations, the family may have expected the outcome. In others, they may be hurt and angry. The clinician's job is to be responsible and responsive to them. This intervention may require more than 1 session. Be available to family members, listen to them, and share their loss.

Often, other patients knew the deceased person. Without violating confidentiality, provide extra attention to these patients. This could include sessions to allow them to express their reactions to the death and loss. If the patient who committed suicide was an inpatient, convening a group meeting and discussing the other patients' reactions is important. The staff should also have an opportunity to discuss their feelings.

Finally, the practitioner must take time to review and discuss the event. Often, seeking a senior clinician is effective. The therapist needs an opportunity to recover and heal. Later, a psychological autopsy can be performed, but in the acute phase, the clinician requires sympathy and support.

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