Psychiatrists have recently met to revise their most important diagnostic tool, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). One of the “new” disorders under consideration in the Manual’s newest edition, DSM 5, is grief.
Grief includes aspects of yearning after, longing for and missing whatever or whoever has been lost. Grieving people would expect to feel sad, lose sleep, lack appetite and have reduced energy and interest. These would be turned into the symptoms of a disease under proposed changes in DSM 5, which is administered by the American Psychiatrists Association..
Some reports suggest that Grief is to declared a disorder itself if it continues over a year. Others suggest that having had recent reason to grieve should exclude people diagnosed with a major depressive order, unless the grief persists for only two months.
Whatever the suggestion, risks associated with redefining grief as a psychological disorder are many and varied. For a start, it will allow psychiatrists to prescribe medicines to “treat” a natural reaction to loss, be that of a loved one or job, or the end of a relationship.
At its worst, however, diagnosing grief as a mental disorder would play right into the hands of those currently providing or advocating for legalisation of euthanasia and assisted suicide.
Many pieces of legislation, and indeed laws currently operating do not require a person requesting euthanasia to be suffer a terminal illness. Grief that may appear insurmountable could be given as a reason for wanting to die. A redefinition of grief as a mental disorder would seem to lend legitimacy to such requests. People who are genuinely grieving require our concerted support, not to be hastily given the means to die as a solution.
The trend to make medical professionals, including psychologists and psychiatrists, compliant in killing their patients instead of helping them, may be continued. The phenomenon of murder-suicide, in which some victims kill themselves, saying they would be unable to bear life without another, who was perhaps also suffering, is given credence by this new type of definition.
In fact, it is the inability to grieve properly that should be, and hopefully is recognised as a mental condition.
That grief is exacerbated by, or can precipitate, psychological disorders, cannot be denied. Some who grieve for a long time suffer from the effects of unresolved issues such as sexual abuse or long-term unhappiness in marriage. If improvements are made in recognising and addressing these, then the perceived need to hastily offer drastic solutions may be prevented.
In the meantime, the new edition of the DSM won’t be issued until 2013. Hopefully sense will prevail in the next two years!