Sunday, November 15, 2009

Interview, Are We Medicating Normal Grief?

[Reviewed and updated April 7, 2024]

In this informative interview with Open to Hope founders Drs. Heidi and Gloria Horsley, Dr. Richard Dew discusses the potential overuse of antidepressant and anti-anxiety medication in grief. Speaking from his own experience not only as a physician but also as a bereaved parent himself, Dr. Dew notes that

• While the sorrow of grief is normal and to be expected, studies indicate that clinical depression is likely to occur in only 30-35% of bereaved parents; the other 70% will not experience the type of depression that calls for prescribed medication.

• Doctors should avoid prescribing antidepressants and anti-anxiety agents for newly bereaved parents, at least for the first 2-3 months following the death of a child. After that, if symptoms warrant it, a trial may be indicated – with the understanding that medication will not remove the grief; it only makes it more bearable.

• Studies show that 13% of those with a prior history of clinical depression will develop depression following the death of a child.

• Indications for antidepressant medication include inability to function and / or a history of depression prior to the death of a child.

• The newer antidepressant medications are far safer than their predecessors; they are neither addictive, nor lethal if taken as an overdose.

• Bereaved parents are wise to look for a counselor or therapist who is knowledgeable about and experienced in working with normal grief.

Listen to the entire interview here: Where Sadness Ends and Depression Begins

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