Saturday, March 10, 2012

Should We TiVo Grief?

There is a movement to label the psychological and emotional grief caused by the loss of a loved one as a "mood disorder" that could be treated by medication. There is a strong opposition to this movement written by the editor of the Lancet, which states:

"Grief is not an illness. It is more usefully thought of as part of being human, and a normal response to the death of a loved one. Most people who experience death of someone they love do not need treatment by a psychiatrist or indeed any doctor. For those who are grieving, doctors would do better to offer time, compassion, remembrance and empathy than pills."

The current standard of treatment by a psychiatrist is to allow a year to pass after a loved one's death before considering a diagnosis of depression and possible medication treatment. The proposed new standard of treatment would only allow two months of mourning to pass and then consider the diagnosis of depression.

I am not a doctor, but I find this quick fix idea wrong. Suffering the loss of a loved one is sad and painful, but it is a part of life. It is also deeply personal and the process deserves respect. There should not be a short time frame imposed as if we can hurry the process along since it is uncomfortable and inconvenient.

It is a comment on our society that some people think that the loss of a human life is something to be moved around for a more appropriate time frame. It degrades the relationship bond that was lost. It does not allow the mourning process to work at its own individual natural pace. To stunt and quash the process of mourning may result in worse emotional and psychological suffering later on. There are parts of life that are not always happy and easy. Yet these parts are part of our life. When we deal with them, we become stronger. We also teach our children how to cope with struggle and the parts of life that are challenging. Psychiatry would better serve mourners with a treatment plan of support and compassion to guide people instead of a pill. Really, the whole medical profession could include support and compassion in treating any illness rather than just treating it with a prescription.

Stay healthy &well,

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