PITTSBURGH, April 10, 2012 – Adults who have lost a loved one to illness, accident or suicide and who are having trouble coping with the grief may be eligible to participate in a University of Pittsburgh research study. Researchers at the Late-Life Depression Evaluation and Treatment Center are seeking adults ages 18 to 95 to participate in the Healing Emotions After Loss (HEAL) study, which examines complicated grief.

Those who have lost loved ones may face overwhelming challenges that can lead to a mourning that is unusually intense and prolonged. During this time, the mourner’s ability 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 re-establishing 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 talk-therapy approach, that specifically targets the grief. In the study, the Pitt researchers use 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 relieve 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 research study is being conducted locally by Charles F. Reynolds III, M.D., professor of psychiatry, neurology and neuroscience at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.

For additional information or to discuss eligibility for participation in the HEAL study, contact Mary McShea, program coordinator, at McSheaMC@upmc.edu or 412-246-6006