Violence makes victims of the young

March 06, 1995|By Joan Jacobson | Joan Jacobson,Sun Staff Writer

Disasters come daily to the neighborhoods of America. And for the children, they leave violence in their wake.

Last week, Baltimore's new state's attorney called for a rescue team to save those young victims.

"When there's an earthquake, the government sends in a rescue team and residents are said to be suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome. Many of our neighborhoods are disaster areas where parents grieve because children are struck down by guns. We have to become part of that rescue team," State's Attorney Patricia C. Jessamy told a symposium on grieving children at the convention center.

The forum included teen-agers, ministers who counsel grieving families, mental health professionals, juvenile counselors and clergy, and was sponsored by a new Baltimore nonprofit organization called the American Institute for Urban Psychological Studies.

After sharing her own story of grief about her sister dying at the age of 41 of complications from multiple sclerosis, Mrs. Jessamy told the group about her office's Family Bereavement Center, where homicide survivors get counseling.

Two forum participants to get such help were Tiffany Martin and Reginald English, cousins who found solace in the center's therapy.

"It is nice to know there are people out there who care about us and know how to help us deal with the pain that is in our hearts," said a soft-spoken Tiffany, 13, whose mother died of a heart attack a year after her aunt was stabbed to death.

Evelyn G. Doyle and Martha E. Reed, who work with troubled children and their families at the state's Department of Juvenile Justice, said they came for advice on how to deal with grieving children.

They often counsel teen-agers "who are losing friends every other week in shootings or to drug overdoses or to AIDS. It's getting more prevalent that one or both parents die of AIDS," said Ms. Reed.

Dr. Grady Dale Jr. -- who with his wife, Helen L. Dale, organized the symposium -- told the 60 attendees, "For many of our children, no one will really talk to them about their loss.

"There are things that children are exposed to today in terms of violence. Children not only see violence on TV, they see it on the streets. That can engender a whole set of fears about what to expect in life," said Dr. Dale, a psychologist who specializes in grief.

His remarks were followed by the session's keynote speaker, J. Shep Jeffreys, a grief psychologist from Columbia whose 8-year-old son died in 1978 of cancer.

"How sad it is that we must join together for this kind of conference. I probably wouldn't be doing this work if our little boy hadn't died," he said.

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