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Adults Who Have Lost a Loved One Due to Suicide Needed for Complicated Grief Study at Pitt

PITTSBURGH, Jan. 19 – Researchers from the Late-Life Depression Evaluation and Treatment Program at the University of Pittsburgh are seeking adults ages 18 to 95 who have experienced the loss of a loved one due to suicide and are having emotional difficulties coping with grief.

Suicide survivors may face overwhelming challenges that can lead to what is termed “complicated grief” in which mourning is unusually intense and prolonged and the ability for the mourner to resume usual activities is impaired. The pain of the loss remains intense with symptoms that include a preoccupation with the person who has died, longing that does not substantially abate with time, and difficulty reestablishing a meaningful life. Complicated grief may affect as many as one out of 10 individuals who have lost someone close to them. Untreated, it can last for years.

Complicated grief treatment is a recently developed psychotherapy, or talking therapy approach, that specifically targets the grief. In the study, the Pitt researchers utilize techniques from cognitive behavioral therapy, interpersonal psychotherapy and motivational interviewing, to provide an individualized approach to resolving the areas that hinder the restorative process. Some research data suggest that antidepressant medication may also have a role in relieving symptoms of complicated grief, but the degree to which medications help, either alone or in combination with the therapy, remains to be determined.

The University of Pittsburgh is one of four sites nationally that has been funded by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and the National Institute of Mental Health to study whether antidepressant medications, alone or in combination with complicated grief therapy, help relieve complicated grief and its associated health consequences. The study is being conducted locally by Charles F. Reynolds III, M.D., professor of psychiatry at Pitt’s School of Medicine.

For additional information or to discuss eligibility for participation in the study, please contact Jill Houle, Healing Emotions After Loss (HEAL) research coordinator, (412) 246-6006 or houleja@upmc.edu.

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