The Stress of Patient Suicidal Behavior: Implications for Interns and Training Programs in Psychology

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Patient suicide and patient suicide attempts are frequently unexpected, sudden, and violent. They can have a significant emotional impact on the treating clinician, particularly if the clinician is still in a training status (cf. Kleespies, Penk, & Forsyth, 1993). An estimated 40% of psychology trainees have a patient suicide (11.3%) or a patient suicide attempt (29.1%) during their training years. A concept of systematic response called psychological resynthesis (Resnick, 1969) is proposed for psychology interns and training programs that must cope with the aftermath of a patient suicide or a serious patient suicide attempt. Suggestions for suicide education and the preparation of trainees for the “occupational hazard” of patient suicidal behavior are discussed as part of a health-promotive approach to the training and clinical work environment.

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