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Health News

Defining Illness

From the Daily Mail:

In an unsigned editorial in the influential medical journal The Lancet, experts argue that grief does not require psychiatrists and that ‘legitimising’ the treatment of grief with antidepressants ‘is not only dangerously simplistic, but also flawed.’

The debate follows a decision by the American Psychiatric Association to classify grief as a mental illness in a bid to allow to doctors to be more flexible about how early patients can be treated for depression after the death of a loved one. The DSM-5 proposal – which has been opposed by The Lancet’s editorial writers – would eliminate the so-called ‘grief exclusion.’ This ‘exclusion’ means that anyone who has experienced bereavement cannot be diagnosed as depressed for a certain period of time.

But The Lancet, along with many psychiatrists and psychologists have called for the changes to be halted – saying they would lead to a ‘tick box’ system that did not consider the wider needs of patients but labelled them as ‘mentally ill’.

Areas to think about:

  • How would you define mental illness? What are some of the problems faced in defining, and diagnosing, it?
  • What are the risks of a creeping medicalisation of normal human activity? How can it be prevented?
  • What criteria would you employ to decide when normal grief becomes clinical depression?
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"It is impossible to live a pleasant life without living wisely, well and justly. And it is impossible to live wisely, well and justly without living a pleasant life". - Epicurus

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