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Keywords:

  • Medicalization;
  • empowerment;
  • traumatic deaths;
  • postvention;
  • client perspective

Dyregrov, K. (2004). Strategies of professional assistance after traumatic deaths: Empowerment or disempowerment? Scandinavian Journal of Psychology, 45, 181–189.

Referring to research and theory in the field, this discussion paper addresses the more overarching question of current strategies for professional assistance to populations bereaved by traumatic death. The issues and controversies that have long surrounded the “medicalization” of mental health arise anew with respect to the medicalization and professionalization of psychosocial help for people who have been traumatically bereaved. Who should provide what help and how? To what extent should the bereaved be expected to help themselves, receive help and support from friends and family, or even the wider community; and to what extent should the bereaved be able to access appropriate professional help when they are in crisis? Recent studies have indicated that bereaved parents want to receive help from mainstream crisis psychology, and this is not always available. Families experiencing traumatic bereavement are not able to access appropriate services along the same lines as those suffering similar levels of somatic complaints. It is argued that the main factors contributing to this situation are the lack of knowledge and inadequate organization of services; the fact that somatic issues take priority over psychosocial difficulties and dysfunction, and curative services over prophylactic intervention; and particularly the de-medicalization ideology. By not listening to the needs of user groups, the de-medicalization movement disempowers rather than empowers users – the very opposite of the desired effect.