10th October is World Mental Health Day. The theme set this year by the World Foundation of Mental Health is 

Mental health is a universal human right

If it is, then it follows that bereavement support which can help prevent mental ill health, is also a universal human right. 

It is generally recognised that there is a relationship between mental health and grief.  Grief and loss are often cited as integral to mental ill-health conditions and bereavement support is seen as a form of mild to moderate mental ill-health intervention.

There is so little understanding of how much bereavement can affect an individual's mental health, even amongst professionals, so much so that many bereaved individuals find their grief symptoms are treated as mental ill-health (often with drugs) but the real cause - grief - remains unresolved.

What is needed is better understanding of grief and bereavement so that bereaved people are not automatically channelled down a mental health intervention route, but are facilitated to find the right support. What are the facts?

Grief can seem like mental ill-health when it isn't

There are good reasons why you might think you are mentally ill when you are bereaved. Symptoms often include depression (this is temporary, not clinical), anxiety, inability to cope, loss of function, memory loss, psychosis, nightmares/recurring dreams, thinking you're seeing the person who has died.

People often report thinking they are going mad and most grieving people will have thoughts of ending their own life.  Unsurprisingly, being bereaved by suicide puts people at increased risk of suicide.  

Unsupported grief can become mental ill health 

This is can be either because

a. people are grieving and left unsupported - bereavement related issues can be highly stressful and lead to further losses and complications and/or complicated grief - OR

b. because bereaved people are not facilitated to grieve - circumstances have caused them to put their grief on hold, suppressing it and leading to mental ill-health and other negative outcomes later, often years later.

BUT everyone should know that

Most people will navigate grief successfully if timely, understanding support is found 

Most people referred to us come from mental health support services and organisations like MIND - the mental health charity. This is because they are grieving but thought they had a mental health problem, or because grief has TRIGGERED their mental ill-health.

We need better understanding from everyone to know that bereavement is NOT a mental health problem. But it can become one if people are not channelled to the right support by professionals. 

We should not wait for grief to lead to mental ill-health. It is costly to the individuals affected, but also to the public services they often turn to, which could - with better understanding - redirect people to bereavement support rather than prescribing drugs or interventions through mental health services.

How AtaLoss addresses this

Through our national signposting and information website AtaLoss.org and our bereavement support programme The Bereavement Journey we

  1. Support grief appearing as mental ill-health. We would ask people to come to us in the first place when grieving and not go to mental health support services.

  2. Prevent mental ill-health by offering timely support. Especially through The Bereavement Journey where bereaved people can process current grief and explore past losses for prevention of potential mental ill-health.

  3. Alleviate the grief element of mental ill-health - whether it is the cause of or in addition to existing mental health problems. 

  4. We offer mild and moderate mental ill-health intervention through both of our services. 

For more information please contact us on [email protected]