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Trauma expert talks to area counselors about grief

By Carolina Astrain
June 10, 2013 at 1:10 a.m.
Updated June 11, 2013 at 1:11 a.m.


BY THE NUMBERS

• 15.8 percent of adolescents have seriously considered suicide

• 19.3 percent of female students have seriously considered attempting suicide; 12.5 percent of male students have seriously considered attempting suicide

• 18.4 percent of white females, 17.4 black of females and 21 percent of Hispanic females have seriously considered suicide

• 12.8 percent of white males, 9 percent of black males and 12.6 percent of Hispanic males have seriously considered suicide

• 12.8 percent of students nationwide have made a suicide attempt plan

7.8 percent of adolescents have attempted suicide

• Suicide is the fourth leading cause of death in adolescents.

[Source: Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance United States, 2011]

She began with stories from her own experiences.

Losing her husband when she was 30 years old.

Losing her 17-year-old son in a car accident.

Dr. Judy Keith, a certified member of the American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress and director of the Renew Center for Personal Discovery, spoke to a room of about 30 area school and hospice counselors about grief recovery Monday.

The all-day session focused on different types of grief and how people suffering from loss or depression exhibit their emotions.

The room of counselors registered for the two-day event through the Region III Education Center.

The counseling professional touched on various topics dealing with grief during her session.

According to Keith's research, widowed men on average will remarry within a year and a half, whereas women will put off their marriage for an average of five years.

"But if a man re-marries before his grief work is done, then there will be problems in paradise," Keith forewarned.

One area counselor asked Keith her opinion on antidepressant drugs.

"I think they're a gift," Keith said.

The counselor went on to say that if healthy alternatives like hiking, exercise or gardening do not resolve a person's depression, then antidepressants should be considered.

"Trauma can change brain chemistry permanently," Keith said. "If a person is unable to function normally without antidepressants, then they may need them."

Keith went on to discuss suicide rates among teenagers in high school.

"We need to be more proactive because suicide is not a problem that is decreasing," Keith said. "Suicidal thoughts are more common than people admit."

Suicide risk factors for teens include bullying, sexual harassment, trouble with the law, an unwanted pregnancy and family issues with addiction, violence and mental health.

"I cannot tell you how many young people have lost their lives over a break-up," Keith said.

Another participant mentioned the depression her elderly father has felt since he has become dependent on his children.

"He says, 'If I don't work, I shouldn't eat,'" the participant said.

Keith responded by emphasizing the importance of having a life plan after retirement to avoid depression.

"So what if you felt successful in your former life?" Keith said. "You need to feel that success in your current life."

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