Suicide exposure and the impact of client suicide: A structural equation modeling approach
Van der Hallen, R.
Objective: Client suicide, used to refer to situations where a mental health practitioner (MHP) is exposed, affected, or bereaved by a client’s suicide, is known to have a profound impact on MHPs. The current study investigated (1) the short- and long-term impact of client suicide and (2) to what extent gender, years of experience, therapeutic background, and exposure to suicidality predicted impact.
Methods: An international sample of 213 mental health practitioners completed an online survey on the impact of client suicide.
Results and conclusion: Overall, results indicate MHPs are significantly affected by client suicide. A two-factor model in which impact of client suicide was predicted by two latent variables, MHP Characteristics and Exposure to Suicidality, explained 43% of short-term, 69% of long-term emotional, and 60% of long-term professional impact. Whereas MHP characteristics did not significantly predict any of the three impact variables (ps >.05), Exposure to Suicidality significantly predicted all three outcome variables (ps <.001). Interestingly, lived experience or exposure to suicidality of friends/family members predicted more impact, while exposure to suicidality at work predicted less impact of client suicide. Implications for both research and clinical practice are discussed.