Race to Fund Rise in Childhood Trauma and Bereavement Support | New

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TRAVERSE CITY – At a small primary school in County Wexford, around 20 children have lost their parents in traumatic circumstances in just a few years. More than 50% are due to drug overdoses, suicide and other mental health issues.

A school counselor, who asked that his identity and that of the school remain anonymous to protect the children’s collective privacy, said the losses had taken their toll.

“I have an increase in referrals to CPS (Child Protective Services) that I do daily for abuse and neglect,” she says. “We’ve seen an increase in suicide ratings — for elementary students.

“It’s quite scary what we face on a daily basis.”

What his school is seeing is part of a larger trend reported by Michael’s Place in Traverse City. Michael’s Place provides support and advocacy for grieving children, teens, and adults, serving five counties in the Traverse Bay area Middle School District.

Citing numbers from a children’s bereavement estimation model produced by Denver-based Judi’s House, which also serves grieving children and families, Michael’s Place executive director Mindy Buell said the latest studies for 2022 show that one in 11 Michigan children will experience the death of a parent or sibling by age 18. This places the state 17th nationally.

“This is a pretty big increase in the number of children who are bereaved,” says Breanna Broering, bereavement coordinator for Michael’s Place and leader of bereavement support groups at area schools. “Before the pandemic, it was about one in 20 nationally. In 2021 in Michigan, that number was one in 12, and with the recent early release of statistics from Judi’s House, Michigan is now at one in 11 this year.

Neither Buell nor Broering could identify the cause of the rise. But it has led to increased demand for Michael’s Place services, which include bereavement support opportunities offered at its Traverse City facility as well as developing and running on-site support groups at area schools. .

“When we started this particular school year, 2021-22, we had seven support groups at school,” says Buell. “We end the year with 20 school support groups.

“So the need has increased dramatically in this particular year.”

In schools, children meet in small groups according to their age. Some are specifically for children who have experienced a traumatic or unexpected/sudden loss.

“It’s important to have support groups offered in schools for grieving students,” Broering said. “Because when a child experiences a death, it’s on their mind and it doesn’t go away when they walk into the school building.

“When we can meet the students at the school where they are and offer them support, our goals are to reduce any isolation they may feel… we try to provide a safe space for them to share their loss and that person . We also strive to equip them with adaptive skills.

Buell notes that offering such services in schools helps overcome barriers that would prevent students from accessing these services: lack of transportation, limited money for gas, maybe they live too far from town. to access other local services.

Michael’s Place also offers a hands-on healing arts program, with additional programs for adults with developmental disabilities, among other services.

It is able to deliver the services with a paid staff of six and a roster of approximately 110 volunteers who participate at varying levels of frequency. Due to increased demand, the organization expects to hire more staff.

Dependent on donations for the bulk of its funding, Michael’s Place has just launched a “Choose Your Adventure” challenge that will run until June 21 and which it hopes will raise $35,000 to help cover expenses. .

They say it’s money well spent, especially when the demand is so high.

As the Wexford County Councilor notes, many of the children served have lost their primary carer. Some even found their parent dead.

“These students are at risk anyway because they had negative childhood experiences,” she says. “They went through trauma. They don’t come from stable homes like this and now they are also missing one of their primary caregivers.

“We thought bringing Michael’s Place as additional support for these children as they grieve would be really beneficial and it has been.”

She says children who have been closed off and uncommunicative begin to open up.

“You notice the kids feel like they can talk about their loved one, share stories – even some of the kids who found their parents shared that experience with the group,” she says. “They are able to do this because their friends have been through something similar.

“When you lose someone and you’re grieving, you can feel very alone. These groups have helped eliminate that.

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