Year: 2023 Source: Nursing Ethics. (2023). 0(0), 1–14. SIEC No: 20230242
Background When a patient commits suicide while hospitalized in the psychiatric ward, the mental healthcare professionals (MHCPs) who have had the patient in their care encounter the family members immediately following the suicide. Professionals who encounter the bereaved in this first critical phase may have a significant impact on the grieving process. By providing ethically responsible and professionally competent care, they have the opportunity to influence what can alleviate and reduce suffering and promote health in a longer perspective. Aim The aim of this study is to investigate MHCPs’ experiences in the encounter with family members who has been bereaved by suicide. Methods Data material consists of text from in-depth interviews with six MHCPs belonging to a total of five different psychiatric units in two hospitals. The findings have emerged through analysis using a hermeneutical approach based on Gadamer’s philosophical hermeneutics. Ethical considerations The study was approved by the Ombudsman for Privacy of the Norwegian Social Science Data Services and is based on informed consent and confidentiality. Findings Three themes emerged: Confirming the suffering. Creating encounter through dialogue. Providing consolation and reconciliation. Findings illuminate how MHCPs understand their responsibilities and how they act in the encounter with the bereaved following suicide. Conclusion The participants appear to be led by the responsibility that grows through witnessing the suffering of the bereaved. Encountering the family member’s aggression and threats against staff members is an ethical challenge to the professional’s ability to confirm the bereaved, create dialogue and provide consolation and reconciliation at the start of their grieving process. MHCPs need to be aware of the different reactions and needs of family members following suicide. More research is needed about how to provide sensitive and flexible care in ways that can be perceived as helpful for those left behind.