Talk therapy after a loved one’s death is good for mental health, reduced risk of suicide

Dealing with grief? Talk to a doctor. In a comprehensive study, researchers from Aarhus University show that grieving patients who receive what is known as talk therapy at the general practitioner’s clinic shortly after a relative’s death, have a lower risk of suicide and psychiatric illness than others.

Losing a close family member is psychologically painful. In fact, it is so painful that the risk of committing suicide or developing other serious psychiatric conditions increases for grieving people who have experienced a serious bereavement.

A study now suggests that talk therapy with a general practitioner early in the grief process can reduce this risk. Senior statistician Morten Fenger-Grøn said, “The study shows that patients whose general practitioners often use talk therapy have a lower risk of suicide and other psychological disorders than others.”

The purpose of the study was to investigate the effects of early treatment with talk therapy or antidepressant medicine on grieving patients. The researchers looked at three specific consequences in connection with the grief resulting from the death of a close relative: suicide, self-harm, and admission to a psychiatric hospital.

The study showed that the risk of a serious psychiatric condition during the grief process would be 1.7% lower if the patient received talk therapy. The research results have been adjusted for both the patient’s characteristics and the general practitioners’ propensity to prescribe antidepressant medications. The study could not, however, provide any precise measurements for the significance of antidepressant medicine in this context.

The full findings are present in the journal- Clinical Epidemiology.

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First Published: Sep 21, 2018 13:25 IST

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