Probing the enduring mystery of suicide

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Thank you to the organizers of the 14th annual conference by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention ("Conference to Offer Day of Healing, Ways to Cope for 'Survivors of Suicide,' " Nov. 13).

As a psychiatrist who was one of the speakers at this conference, I witnessed first-hand the painful struggles of surviving loved ones who are trying their best to cope in the aftermath of a suicide. Oftentimes there are no good answers to the "why" question and the task of coping then must turn to how to try to put the reality of the act into a perspective that makes some sense to the surviving loved one while, at the same time, somehow rebuilding their own lives.

Unfortunately, too many sufferers hide their private pain for a variety of reasons until it becomes an endless "broken record" of repeating thoughts and feelings that keep them stuck in their grief, sometimes for decades. Others spend all their energy trying to avoid their pain by withdrawing from others.

Thanks to funding from the AFSP and from the National Institute of Mental Health (federal tax dollars at work), we are working to find innovative techniques to help relieve the painful suffering of those with prolonged or complicated grief in a research study called HEAL (Healing Emotions After Loss). Researchers in Pittsburgh, New York City, Boston and San Diego are collaboratively carrying out the same study simultaneously at no cost to participants.

We thank the AFSP for all of their support and encourage any sufferers of severe or persistent grief from any death to call 412-246-6006 to learn more about the HEAL study and how it might benefit them.

Professor of Psychiatry
University of Pittsburgh Medical Center



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