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The original item was published from 11/26/2014 10:02:29 AM to 12/4/2014 12:05:01 AM.

News Flash

Butte-Silver Bow

Posted on: November 26, 2014

[ARCHIVED] Place to unload: Teen Grief Group offers support

It’s been a year since the first of four youth suicides occurred in Butte-Silver Bow County.

Many survivors, particularly young people, are still suffering.

For the first time, a support group for area high school students meets a year after the cluster of suicides began.

By all accounts, the teen Grief Group is much needed as other anniversaries approach over the holidays.

Bill Wheeler, father of Jacob Wheeler, who died last New Year’s Day, supports the Grief Group. Wheeler was a sophomore at Butte High.

“I think it’s really important for us to have something available for the teens who are hurting,” Wheeler said. “I applaud Melody Rice for really giving a voice to the kids.”

Rice, a certified private counselor, leads the support group, which emerged from the community-wide Suicide Prevention Coalition.

“It’s an open meeting right now for parents if they need to ask any questions and meet the facilitators,” said Rice.

“We will have help from other counselors,” she added. “We will have our bases covered in terms of skill.”

Eventually, the meetings may be held at Butte High, where students are released at 3 p.m.

“Perhaps in the future we can have the meetings in the school setting,” said Rice, “but there needs to be further education regarding the advantages for parents and other people curious about whether grief support is going in the right direction.”

Judy Jonart, Butte school district superintendent, said a technicality has held up scheduling the group at the high school. All non-district employees who visit public schools are required by law to undergo a background check, which takes time.

“We were having a tough time with background checks,” said Jonart. “Some were taking up to eight weeks. But if they want to be at our school, that’s no problem.”

New district employees pay $40 for a mandatory background check through the Department of Justice, which sends the report to the district.

As an option, after-school events get the green light if a teacher or other district-authorized supervisor is in the room, said Therese McClafferty, district human resources director.

Jonart said the district is creating “a long-term plan of action” to provide grief outlets.

“We really want to provide any services that the kids need,” Jonart added.

Erin Olivieri, BHS senior and student representative to the school board, said students benefit from in-school meetings.

“That would be ideal,” said Olivieri, “mostly because then students don’t have to travel to get to it; we’re already there. If we do it in the school, it’s a comfort level for the kids because it’s something we do every day.”

Olivieri said starting a dialogue via grief groups is the right thing to do.

“I can’t say whether students will be interested this time around,” Olivieri said, “but it is imperative. Everybody needs that backing and a place to go for any kind of grief.”

Read the full story in the Montana Standard
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