Published: 07/10/2004, Volume II4, No. 5926 Page 37

Too often there is little discussion about how mental health staff are affected when a client takes their own life.

A four-strong team from Leeds Mental Health Teaching trust has developed guidelines to help clinical staff deal with the aftermath of suicide, writes Lynne Greenwood .

'There was a sense that staff had to be tough after a suicide, ' says ward manager Vanessa Garrity.'Some people carried on by returning to work, worrying that time off might affect their careers.Others took sick leave, but were often isolated at home.'

But now 300 staff, including some doctors and consultants, have attended relevant training sessions to learn to deal with suicide, which means attitudes are changing.

Before writing the guidelines, the team found that there was a gap in national policy.'All we found was one A4 page outlining what to do, compiled by a Yorkshire hospital, ' says Annie GreenwoodGilyard, mental health nurse adviser and research co-ordinator.

Workshops have helped to coax staff to reveal past experiences, and some staff admitted they still questioned whether they could have done more to prevent the suicide.

The guidelines help staff co-ordinate incidents and include notes for managers on offering emotional and practical support in the first instance.

'The guidelines are about sharing the load and softening the shocks, ' says community mental health nurse Marissa Cliff, the team's fourth member.

For a copy of the guidelines, e-mail annie. greenwood-gilyard@leedsmh. nhs. uk