Why death of Diana was good for our health

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The Independent Online
The death of Diana, Princess of Wales, led to a significant decrease in people seeking help for depression, according to psychiatric clinics. Admissions fell by up to 50 per cent in some cases. One explanation says Glenda Cooper, Social Affairs Correspondent, is that the public mourning helped people come to terms with private problems.

The outpouring of grief after the death of Diana, Princess of Wales allowed people to release deeply-buried emotions relating to personal problems they had chosen not to deal with, psychiatric experts said yesterday.

A survey carried out by Speciality Care, a nationwide group of private clinics which also takes NHS referrals, reported a drop in admissions for a range of general psychiatric illnesses. In some cases there was a drop of 50 per cent.

Drops were most commonly seen in those suffering neurotic problems such as anxiety and stress, rather than the severely psychotic patients. Clinics in London, where there are more mental health patients, also reported a "lull" in referrals.

"The death of Diana acted as a catharsis," said Dianne Trueman, clinical manger of Sutton's Manor Clinic in Essex. "When they cried for Diana, many people - and particularly men who often have trouble expressing emotions - found they could also cry for themselves allowing the release of all the repressed emotions that had built up in their life. The long-term effect of such behaviour can often lead to the development of mental health problems."

At one point in her clinic, which takes NHS referrals, she had filled only 12 out of 27 beds. "It is unprecedented," she said.

Other factors also played a part the experts found: the windfall gains from building societies, the election and the late onset of winter all helped to create a "feelgood" factor. "There's significant benefit from a good old cry and the death of Diana gave people the licence to do just that," said Haydn Lunn, manager of the Dove Clinic in the Midlands.

Dr Stephen Palmer, director of the Centre for Stress Management, said he too had noticed a "lull" in admissions, although it was impossible to say whether this had been caused by Diana's death.

"When there are big events you find there is less depression. They act as a wonderful distraction ... there were so many people who were upset who would not be normally because they were grieving for themselves. It was therapeutic without the need for therapy. This trend could be very interesting."

Professor Janet Sayers, who contributed to a special edition of The Psychologist which looked at reactions to Diana's death, said: "Many found themselves overwhelmed both by her loss and by the feelings it revived from their past and present lives.

"The nation's reaction ... has signalled even more strongly a change of heart - towards recognising our community with one another and the importance ... of being open to, voicing and sharing our feelings as she did with us."

The French magistrates leading the investigation into the death of the Princess and Dodi Fayed are to close the case after spending almost pounds 250,000, it was reported last night. The decision, likely to be announced in the New Year, means that manslaughter charges against the 10 paparazzi arrested after the crash in the Pont l'Alma tunnel in Paris will be dropped and the 24-strong squad of policemen seeking the owner of the Fiat Uno thought to be involved in the accident will be returned to normal duties.