A Social Worker’s Experience with Client Suicide
Keywords:suicide, postvention, policy, organizational health
Mental health social workers often work with clients experiencing suicidal ideation. It is not uncommon for social workers to experience the suicide of a client during their practice. Social workers may experience guilt, shame, anxiety, and depression following a client suicide. Agencies play a prominent role in influencing how social workers will cope with a client suicide. This paper reflects on my experience when my client died by suicide and the response of my agency. Procedures that agencies can utilize to promote support of mental health workers after a client suicide are also discussed. Agencies can ensure a supportive environment by having a clearly developed plan in place before a client suicide occurs. Agency policies and procedures should outline what steps to take and how to provide support to staff during a client suicide crisis. Literature recommendations for agency supportive postvention policy development will be discussed. Social work leaders can decrease adverse reactions that could lead to burnout of social workers who have experienced a client suicide by implementing recommended procedures. Agency policies that focus on supporting the social worker after client suicide influence how staff cope and promote a positive workplace culture.
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NARRATIVES OF PROFESSIONAL HELPING
Cleveland State University
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