I don’t often talk about my work here, at least not in any substantial way, and while this Huffington Post article may seem ultra-specific to Grief Counselors and the people we treat, that is not the case.
For years now, the professional psychiatric community has debated (and debated and debated) what should never have been a question at all — whether or not to include “Complicated Grief” in the new DSM 5 (the diagnosis bible of psychiatry). What’s the big deal you may well ask? The big deal is this: if grief — in any form — becomes part of the DSM, grief — in all its forms — automatically becomes an illness — an ILLNESS, rather than what it is — a normal, natural process of life — not a fun process, nor an easy one, but a natural process nonetheless — NOT an illness.
What has bothered me most about this debate are those in my own profession — those who have chosen to counsel only, specifically, the bereaved — who SUPPORT this idiocy. Personally, I believe their support comes from a need to somehow be legitimatized by the “real” psychiatric professionals (the APA) — but shows a lack of understanding and complete disrespect for what we do.
This ridiculous change to DSM 5, puts our patients at risk. Dr Cacciatore’s letter explains this far better than I, but simply put, the change would make possible the labeling of people grieving the loss of a loved one as mentally ill. (Dr Cacciatore speaks specifically to bereaved parents, but what she says is true of all loss.)
Imagine that. Imagine what it means in our society to be termed “mentally ill”. What it costs — financially, ethically, morally, spiritually — and then imagine what it could mean to label as mentally ill anyone (aka Everyone) who has ever been “grief stricken”.