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Eur Psychiatry. 2003 Nov;18(7):345-9.

Frequency and impact of patient suicide on psychiatric trainees.

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  • 1Behavior Therapy Department, University Center St. Jozef, Leuvensesteenweg 517, 3070, Kortenberg, Belgium.


The objective of the present study was to conduct a systematic inquiry into the frequency and impact of patients' suicide on psychiatric trainees, and the availability and usefulness of training courses. Data were collected from 114 psychiatric trainees of the Dutch-speaking part of Belgium, representing a 70% response rate. A self-report questionnaire developed in the UK was adapted to the Flemish situation. A Dutch version of the Impact of Event Scale (IES) inquiring about post-traumatic stress symptoms was also used. The frequency of suicide experience was considerably higher in the present study than in similar studies in the USA and the UK. Thirty percent of first year trainees had been confronted with patient suicide. Personal and professional impact of patient suicide, as well as post-traumatic stress scores were considerably lower in Flemish psychiatric trainees. They considered informal support to be of more value than formal support to come to terms with the event. Finally, postgraduate training in post-suicide management was found to be largely insufficient. The results of the present study show that psychiatric trainees in the Dutch-speaking part of Belgium are at a high risk of experiencing patient suicide, whereas the impact of this experience appears to be relatively low. Only a small minority of trainees has received adequate training on procedures to follow after patient suicide.

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