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Help with depression is available over the summer for students

by Merrie Leininger

If your child is exhibiting unusual behavior over the summer, the counselors of the school district want you to know what to look for and where to go for help.

Douglas County School District counselor Dori Draper said because many Douglas students have experienced tragic events this year, parents should have information about the grief process.

“There have been so many incidents of tragedy, such as (Douglas High School graduate) Shawn Kronenberg being killed, (DHS student) Ryan O’Sullivan dying, the abduction of Krystal (Steadman) at the Lake. And we know sometimes there is a delayed reaction with grief,” Draper said.

She said parents should be aware of the signals students may exhibit if they have severe depression, sudden substance abuse or suicidal thoughts.

Parents and friends should look for:

– A sudden change in friends

– A sudden change in eating or sleeping habits

– Isolating themselves

– Drug paraphernalia

– Disinterest in normal activities

– Threats to hurt themselves

– Disinterest in appearance or cleanliness

– Lack of emotions

– Difficulty concentrating

Draper said parents should always listen to their children’s feelings and not try to explain away their feelings of grief.

“Always ask them how they are feeling, what’s going on. Just ask questions without trying to explain it away or problem-solve. Encourage a child to talk about what’s bothering them. Kids are sometimes told to ‘get over it,’ but it’s normal for feelings to come up much later,” Draper said. “We accept things as we can handle them.”

Draper said the school district is trying to do a better job handling student grief issues, “because it seems like there is a lot we should be doing.”

She said she can’t speak for all counselors, but “it seems like there has been a lot of need” for grief counseling this year.

Draper said she wants parents to be thinking about the issue, because society tends to ignore it.

“We all know how to do CPR, but we don’t know how to deal with grief when something happens. In our society, it’s just not talked about. At work, most people just get three days bereavement time – just three days,” she said.

Draper said grief can seriously affect a child after the loss of not just a peer, but a pet, a relative, or even a move.

“We don’t want people to feel they are alone this summer,” she said.

Elementary schools which are in session in the summer will have a counselor or psychologist available. Parents can also get help from the district special services at 782-4355.

Douglas County Mental Health can provide help, along with the Partnership of Community Resources, which has a list of counselors, and of course, parents can call private therapists.

n Yellow Ribbon. Draper is also involved in the Yellow Ribbon Project, a suicide prevention program started two years ago.

The program was honored at this month’s school board meeting for raising consciousness of the issue.

Pau-Wa-Lu Middle School counselor Mary Wolery has led the group for the past year. She organized a presentation of middle school students, high school students and parents to discuss the issue. The panel gave its presentation to five service clubs, in addition to church groups and schools this school year.

Each panel participant received a certificate of thanks from the school district, and Wolery was given a plaque from the Yellow Ribbon advisory team.

“She deserves more than that. Without her leadership, I doubt that we would have had the effective program that was provided,” said advisory team member John Amundson.

The next Yellow Ribbon meeting is scheduled after the start of the school year at 2:30 p.m., Sept. 13, at Carson Valley Middle School.