Ignoring the possibility that your child could be involved with drugs increases the chances that it will happen, former television personality Susan White-Bowden told a group of community leaders and parents Friday.
In some cases, such denial can be fatal.
"I lost the most precious thing in my life," Ms. White-Bowden, formerly of WMAR-TV, said during her keynote address at the Carroll County Drug Summit 1995. "I looked the other way because I did not believe I could lose my son."
Through tears, Ms. White-Bowden told the audience of about 100 how her son, Jody, fatally shot himself in 1977 after six months of drug use. But the problem went much deeper than his daily use of marijuana, she said.
"He was using the only resource he had in his life to deaden the pain he was feeling," she said, adding that her husband had committed suicide two years before.
"When our children become involved in drugs, there is a reason," Ms. White-Bowden said. "Even if it's something as seemingly simple as going along with the crowd to fit it, there is a problem."
Ms. White-Bowden's address, which also touched on how parents shouldn't feel ashamed when their child has a drug problem, began a day of workshops and discussion groups dealing with the family, youth and law enforcement issues surrounding drug abuse.
The daylong program -- sponsored by the Carroll County Commissioners and Junction, a local drug treatment program -- targeted adults, in contrast to many early county-sponsored programs that were for children and teen-agers.
"I, like a lot of people, thought if I go look for the help my son needs, I'm admitting that I'm a bad parent," Ms. White-Bowden said, adding that parents shouldn't feel ashamed about taking advantage of programs that help children with drug problems.
"You think you aren't doing your job, that if you were a good mother, you wouldn't need this help," she said. "You bet I would. We're not bad people. We're loving, caring, concerned people ++ who love your children and want the best for them."
The idea that young people use drugs to dull the pain of other problems in their life also was stressed in the group dealing with family issues.
"To a certain extent, we are a medicated society," said Gary Honeman, a family counselor with the Youth Service Bureau who was leading the group. "There is a large amount of prescription drugs around out there."
"The model [to children] of how you take care of yourself can be real important," he said, adding that parents should also do things like exercise and eat well.
Members of that group, who participated in the other two workshops later in the day, also discussed things any family could work on to make the children feel secure and less likely to be interested in using drugs.
For example, parents should try to show affection, physically and in words, encourage family activities along with activities with each child, and strengthen their relationships with their partners.
"We emphasize that parents need to take care of their own relationships," Mr. Honeman said. "That gives increased security the children that their parents will always be there for them."
Mr. Honeman also stressed the importance of fathers' involvement in their children's lives.