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A View From The Other Chair

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Active Member
Hi everyone. I'm relatively new here, but I hope to be able to be here to share and offer support to others. I'm posting this now probably more for myself than anyone else, but maybe some people here will have some thoughts about it. I'm a mental health professional, and I lost a patient to suicide about 4 months ago. I wanted to offer a view on this from my perspective to people who may be interested.

I worked with this person for about nine months. The person had no previous history of suicide attempts that were disclosed to me, and we worked mainly on this person's mood and employment situation. We met weekly, and the person saw someone for medication as well. From the person's report, things were progressing fairly well. I saw this person on our regular day that week, and two days later I received a page from a family member who let me know that this person had taken their life.

This hit me like a ton of bricks. I cried when I heard the news, and cried even more when family told me that I had meant a lot to this person. I didn't sleep that night, and remember the feeling of crying into my pillow as my spouse tried to comfort me. This lasted for quite a while. I didn't know what I missed, what I could have done. Why didn't this person page me before they did it? How could I have failed them like that?

I had no idea how I could go back to work. I had other patients to see and, to be honest, had no confidence in my ability to help anyone. I don't know how I managed those first few weeks afterward. It was on my mind constantly. Patients that had no issues with suicidal thoughts suddenly became high risk to me. I was screening everyone. I was afraid to take on new patients. If my phone rang I was sure it was someone telling me that another patient was dead. My pager became my sworn enemy. Every time I heard any sort of beep (even my oven or something on TV) my heart began to race. If I had to return a page I was paralyzed with fear. I thought about quitting. I thought, "How can I continue to do this? I'm no good at this."

Four months later things have improved, but I still think about this person frequently. I still check my pager over and over, and still hate to hear anything beep. I can work better with my patients, and feel more competent, but there is doubt there that never existed in the 15 years I had been doing this before. I do what I do because I love people. Losing this patient shook me like I had never been shaken before. I failed. I could have saved them and I failed.

I guess I came here in an effort to interact with some people and maybe understand. This may sound crazy, but i care about you all. Thanks for listening.
i'm really sorry to read about your loss.

for me, it has taken some time in therapy to be able to open up to my therapist and let her know when i'm actively suicidal. i've learned when i need to go into hospital in order to keep safe. it's a huge issue of trust. it hasn't been easy, because when i'm depressed i feel so worthless and useless that i think i'm doing everyone a favour by ending it. it's only when i emerge the other side of my depressions that i think differently.

i'm not sure there was anything more you could have done. you never had the full picture on how your patient was feeling. you obviously care a lot about your patients.

thanks for posting,



Well-Known Member
I have a very strong alliance with my therapist and my psychiatrist, and yet, she/he can't ultimately make the pain go away. They can lock me in a hospital, or help me find ways to stay safe and cope, but in the end, it is up to me, not them. Although I feel close to both of them, I have tremendous difficulty reaching out to them when I am suicidal. I am ashamed. I worry more about burdening her, causing her pain or distress. Mostly, when you want to die, you don't want anyone to interfere. If it's not an impulsive act, then you have thought it through and have accepted certain things and there is no point in talking it through with anyone. You are so consumed with your own pain, you can't really see much of anything else.

I lost two good friends to suicide in high school. I saw Derek the day before and he seemed perfectly fine. The next day he was gone. My other friend John shot himself at a party in front of all of us. It is a horrible feeling of betrayal. I still wonder why they didn't tell me, reach out, ask for help, just hung on for one more day.....the Why's? can drive you crazy. It changes you forever.


Well-Known Member
I told my psych i was susicidal over my weight yet she presisted to dose me with a drug that put on 7 stone for me .
i stopped taking it ,
if she really cared she would have stopped it
i dont have faith in anyone right now
sorry to hear what happened to you


Staff Alumni
You cannot read minds and many ppl who are in such distress are very distrusting and feel so worthless that any productive effort to seek help is contaminated by the severe feelings of distain and self-loathing...there are questions that are not a part of a standard suicide probability protocol that I think should standardly be included...e.g. would you really tell me what is going on? or how would I know if you were in extreme difficulty? The person may not answer, but would know that the boundaries of what could be discussed are considerably larger than s/he perceives...many of us fear we are going to be 2PC'd or such should we be truthful...we fear that what we will disclose will cause more pain, especially shame, than how we feel right now and we are so close to the edge right now that we fear we cannot take anymore...suicidality is a very lonely syndrome...many of us hurt ourselves in private and can live in a duality of seeming so much more a part of the world when we need to...it also has a significant OCD component so we focus on this state quite often (I must have rehearsed 'taking the bus' more than most other things in my life)...like SH, there is also a calming effect to knowing the pain is controllable...I have studied suicidology for many years, having truly first attempted when I was almost 7 (May and I was born in August) and I remember the day like it was yesterday...if one includes my episodes of counterphobia, I have attempted many many times...and yes, I am still here and in the world...where someone finds his inner strength is still not clear to me...but some, inspite some of the gravest (intended) human tragedies continue to go on...like an alcoholic, I know to listen to my inner narrative about these issues, because if left unattended, for me, they can be very costly...welcome, and please know we can only do our best...one can only treat what is disclosed, and so many ppl have covert lives we know very little about...big hugs and please continue to do the good work you are doing...our community needs understanding and humanistic providers as many out there clearly are not (I have a dozen experiences that support this)...J
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