Professionals in secure residential youth care (SRYC) in the Netherlands are regularly confronted with suicides of adolescents and can be referred to as secondary victims. However, little is known about the impact of suicides on these professionals. This study explores the impact of suicides on professionals working in SRYC. Semi-structured interviews (n = 14) were conducted with professionals from several SRYC institutions. A thematic analysis of the material yielded four main themes: i) impact of suicide on a personal level, ii) impact of suicide on a vocational level, iii) impact of suicide on professional responses, and iv) facilitators and barriers that facilitated or obstructed professional resilience and the prevention of future suicides. The experience of suicide is extremely distressing for professionals. Some interviewees were traumatized by the impact. The findings suggest that most professionals draw on coercive measures for other youngsters sooner and more often after being exposed to suicide. The most commonly reported reason for doing so was the fear of experiencing a fatal incident. Professionals in SRYC require skilled and dedicated support (postvention) following a suicide to minimize its detrimental effects on personal, professional, and team functioning. Further implications for daily practice and policymaking are discussed.
- Adolescent suicide
- secure residential youth care
- traumatic stress