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Losing a patient to suicide


Join us Wednesday, April 24, 2019, at 6:00 p.m. Eastern/5:00 p.m. Central as we open a lively Twitter discussion in psychiatry on the topic of losing a patient to suicide. Our special guests include physicians with expertise on the topic of patient suicide, Dinah Miller, MD, (@shrinkrapdinah) and Eric Plakun, MD, (@EricPlakunMD). We hope you join us April 24 at 6 p.m. ET. #MDedgeChats.

Suicides in the United States are on the rise; according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide was the cause of death of almost 45,000 people in 2016. Overall, it was the 10th leading cause of death, and the second leading cause of death among people aged 10-34 years. Twice as many people completed suicide as were victims of homicides.

Losing a patient to suicide is one of the most difficult and painful experiences a psychiatrist will face. In addition to concern for the patient and his or her family, psychiatrists may experience thoughts of responsibility and what they could have done differently to prevent the suicide. Although often trained in helping patients address grief, psychiatrists may not be as comfortable processing their own grief after the loss of a patient to suicide.

Topics of conversation

Q1: Have you ever lost a patient to suicide?

Q2: How do you think the loss of your patient changed your approach to psychiatry?

Q3: How did the loss change you?

Q4: If you did not discuss the suicide with your colleagues, what held you back?

Q5: How can you support medical professionals who lose patients to suicide?


Preventing suicide: What should clinicians do differently?

Individualized intervention key to reducing suicide attempts

Helping survivors in the aftermath of suicide loss

The blinding lies of depression

Suicide symposium: A multidisciplinary approach to risk assessment and the emotional aftermath of patient suicide

About Dr. Miller

Dr. Miller is the author of numerous books and articles, including “Committed: The Battle Over Involuntary Care” (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2016), which she wrote with Dr. Annette Hanson (@clinkshrink), and “When a Patient Dies by Suicide – The Physician’s Silent Sorrow” in the New England Journal of Medicine (@NEJM) (2019;380:311-13). She has a private practice in Baltimore and is affiliated with Johns Hopkins University (@HopkinsMedicine).

About Dr. Plakun

Dr. Plakun is the medical director and CEO of the Austen Riggs Center (@Austen Riggs), a “top 10” U.S. News and World Report “Best Hospital” in psychiatry based in Stockbridge, Mass. He also serves on the board of trustees of the American Psychiatric Association (@APA Psychiatric) representing New England and Eastern Canada, and was the founding leader of the APA Psychotherapy Caucus. Dr. Plakun is a board-certified psychiatrist, psychoanalyst, former member of the Harvard Medical School clinical faculty, and author of more than 50 publications.

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