Written by Annie Haarmann for the Lincoln County Journal published in October, 2009
As a parent, it can be overwhelming to respond to some of the difficult emotions that a child must experience. In the case of Janet and her 11-year-old son, Bobby, the family needed help dealing with the loss of a close friend. Crider Health Center’s School-Based Mental Health Program, which is funded in part by the Lincoln County Resource Board, was there to help Janet and Bobby to overcome grief and its accompanying problems.
When Bobby's best friend died suddenly of an illness, Bobby was inconsolable. At 11 years old, it is difficult to comprehend the loss of a friend. He was unable to attend school because of his anxiety. He began to fear that he might lose other loved ones as well. Janet did not know where to turn.
“He was completely beside himself. I didn’t know how to work with him to help him deal with the loss,” says Janet. Crider Health Center’s School Based Mental Health Program was there to help. After being connected to School Based Mental Health Specialist, the family began working on goals to get Thomas back to being a happy, healthy child.
“Each week (Thomas) and I would discuss his thoughts, feelings and behaviors,” says the therapist. “As the weeks went on, he was able to see the connection between these things. He was then able to develop strategies to assist him in changing the sad thoughts of his friend to happy memories.”
The family worked with their therapist to set goals such as getting back into the routine of attending school regularly.
“He has actually gotten to the point that he is enjoying school this year,” says Janet.
Thomas has also started to write about his experience, and was able to share some of his writing with his family recently. He can also talk about the good experiences he had with his friend without feeling as much anxiety as before.
“It is wonderful that he can get up every day and live his life instead of locking himself away afraid of being hurt,” says Janet. “Everyone (at Crider) has been very caring and understanding. They get down with the child and work with them on their own level.”
When his great-grandmother passed away this summer, Janet worried that Bobby might have difficulty dealing with the grief of losing another close person in his life. Instead, she says Bobby was able to use some of the steps he had learned through the program to cope with the loss.
“This program is an absolute necessity because during the school year, children spend more time at school than at home. There are so many parents out there who don’t know where to start when their child has a mental health issue,” says Janet. Thanks to Crider’s School-Based Mental Health Program and the Lincoln County Resource Board, families have a place to turn for help.