Psychologist suicide: Incidence, impact, and suggestions for prevention, intervention, and postvention.
Kleespies, P., Van Orden, K., Bongar, B., Bridgeman, D., Bufka, L., Galper, D., ... Yufit, R.
Psychologist practitioners are not immune to certain mental health problems, including suicidality, for which they provide services. In the aftermath of two recent psychologist suicides, the American Psychological Association’s Advisory Committee on Colleague Assistance (ACCA) initiated the formation of a conjoint ad hoc committee consisting of members from ACCA, the American Psychological Association (APA) Practice Directorate, and the Section on Clinical Emergencies and Crises (Section VII of APA’s Division 12) to investigate the incidence of psychologist suicide and its impact on colleagues, students or interns, patients or clients, and the profession. The committee reviewed the extant empirical literature on suicide rates for psychologists, evaluated unpublished data on psychologist suicide provided by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), interviewed colleague survivors, reviewed published case reports of the impact of therapist suicides, and linked their findings to the literature on professional distress, impairment, and self-care. The committee concluded that there is evidence suggestive of an elevated risk of suicide for psychologists in past decades. It further concluded that there is a need for further research to confirm if there is a heightened risk of suicide for psychologists in the present day and to determine factors that might contribute to such risk. Accounts from colleague-survivors suggest that the impact of a psychologist’s suicide can affect many people including family, colleagues, students, and patients or clients. This article offers suggestions for possible preventive approaches, for intervention with potentially at-risk colleagues, and for postvention efforts in the wake of a colleague suicide.