This chapter suggests that the pathologization/psychologization of grief within the psy-disciplines has had an impact on the way in which mourning is understood and managed in day-to-day life. The psychologization and pathologization of grief is situated within several other cultural and historical movements that have been part of the shifting understanding of mourning as a medical entity. These contexts include the rise of modernism and the focus on the psychological self as a site of meaning and the subsequent fear of death and grief. The looping of grief begins with the psy-disciplines’ construction of it as an individualized, psychologized, and private event. This construction then gets relayed to the public through various representations in mainstream media, including film, television, and newspapers. In contemporary North American culture, television and film are mediators in which people get introduced, immersed, and identify with narratives and themes of their culture.
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This chapter summarizes the major strains of psychology that were important in setting the foundation for death studies by psychologists, and highlights some of the most important contributions made by psychology to the field. Psychology, often regarded as an offshoot of philosophy and biology, traces its origin to Wilhelm Wundt who was what we today would call an experimental psychologist. A parallel track to that of experimental psychology is the development of the psychodynamic approach led by Sigmund Freud. A third school of 20th-century psychology is humanistic/existential psychology. It also focuses on the ability of the human being to mature and develop his or her own positive mental health. William Worden is the first clinical psychologist to differentiate between counseling and therapy early in the development of the field of thanatology. Psychology is made up of developmental, experimental, social, clinical, counseling, cognitive, and many other areas that defy simple classifications.
This chapter provides a brief history of suicide, describes the dimensions of the problem internationally and in the United States, and highlights approaches designed to aid in understanding, preventing, and intervening in suicidal behavior. The ways in which societies have reacted to self-killing has changed across times and cultures. In the United States, the first suicide prevention center was established in Los Angeles in 1958 with a 5-year grant from the U.S. Public Health Service. The center had three major goals: to save lives, to serve as a major public health agency for the community, and to carry out research on suicide. The most common treatment of overtly suicidal people in the recent past has been to treat them with antidepressants with or without talk therapy. It is much more powerful to consider cases holistically by exploring with them their current dimensions of environmental, psychological, cognitive, biological, and spiritual thinking.