The Impact Of Suicide On Mental Health Clinicians: What We Know, What We Can Do


Nina Gutin, Ph.D.

Nina Gutin, Ph.D.

Clinical Psychologist

Didi Hirsch Suicide Prevention Center


This presentation will summarize what’s known about the experiences of Mental Health Clinicians after the suicide loss of a client, and will provide guidelines to help agencies optimize responses.

Within the mental health field, studies have found that one in two Psychiatrists, and one in five Psychologists, Clinical Social Workers and other mental health professionals will lose a patient to suicide in the course of their careers; this suggests a clear occupational hazard! Despite this, most Mental Health professionals and agencies continue to view suicide loss as an aberration. Consequently, there is often a lack of preparedness for such an event when it does occur. 

This presentation will summarize what’s currently known about the personal and professional experience of Clinicians after the suicide loss of patients/clients (much of which “overlaps” with the clinician’s loss of loved ones.), It will highlight many of the unique professional issues experienced by clinicians subsequent to such a loss, as well as those factors that optimally facilitate recovery and growth. The role of stigma around the areas of suicide loss and professional vulnerability will be addressed, particularly as these may serve to exacerbate the isolation that many clinicians experience after such a loss.

In addition, Dr. Gutin will highlight the legal and ethical issues that are likely to arise after the suicide of a patient, and which are likely to further complicate Clinicians’ responses to these issues, including issues pertaining to contact with the deceased’s family after a suicide.

General guidelines for Postvention will be presented, which will enable Mental Health professionals in various settings to optimally meet the needs of impacted Clinicians, staff and surviving family members. Finally, Dr. Gutin will describe the unique resources provided by the Coalition of Clinician-Survivors, which provides support and resources for clinicians and other professional caregivers who have experienced personal and/or professionally-based suicide losses.

An interactive discussion will be encouraged, in order to enable a breakdown in the professional isolation that often accompanies such a loss, and to enhance the learning experience of all participants.

Learning Objectives

At the conclusion of this presentation, the participant should be able to:

  1. Describe the common effects of client suicide loss on clinicians, as it relates to both personal and professional contexts.
  2. Describe the ways in which personal and professional stigma plays a role in dealing with the sequelae of suicide loss.
  3. Describe the factors most likely to facilitate optimal outcomes in relation to the suicide loss of a client from the personal, professional, clinical, educational, familial, and legal perspectives