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The next challenge for Jayme Closs: Recovery from ordeal will be difficult, mental health experts say

Jayme Closs (Photos courtesy of Barron County Sheriff's Office)

DULUTH — Jayme Closs will face an extended, difficult challenge as she recovers from a horrifying three-month ordeal, mental health experts say.

“She’s not only been through the terrible horror of losing her parents, but by such a tragic means,” said Heather Rose-Carlson, a psychologist at Northland Psychological Services in Duluth who specializes in critical incidents. “To also being kidnapped, and we don’t know what other experiences she’s had over the last three months. So her life as she knows it is completely changed.”

The effect can vary from person to person, said Saprina Matheny, a clinical social worker for the Human Development Center who specializes in trauma.

“The length of time is one of those things that can make the effects of trauma worse,” Matheny said. “The other thing is that people can endure a lot, and in some ways their capacity to cope may involve almost checking out from each individual day ... It’s very individualized depending on how people can cope and get through. Our brains are really wired for survival in that time period.”

Now free and safe, Jayme may feel a sense of relief that could wane after a few weeks, Matheny said.

“When what that means kicks in, that’s when some of those difficulties can really present themselves,” she said. “Particularly when you’re looking at something that appears so profoundly out of the blue, a very altered sense of safety and a very altered sense of what the world is like (can occur). How do you feel safe in your environment and how do you trust people?”

Classic post-traumatic stress distress symptoms such as flashbacks, nightmares, hypervigilance about surroundings and difficulty feeling happy also could occur, Matheny said.

“For someone who has been through an experience like that, the number of people that you can relate to is very small,” she added. “There are very few people who have survived such an ordeal, and very few people who understand.”

Jayme will need plenty of help along the way, said Carlson, who works with the Duluth Police Department and serves on the Arrowhead critical incident stress management team.

“This will be part of her for the rest of her life,” Carlson said. “Any part of her teenage years that she can reclaim would be really important. … But it’s going to take a lot of work. She’ll have to go through cognitive behavioral therapy and trauma therapy, and obviously this experience has changed her forever.”

But both Carlson and Matheny saw an encouraging sign in the fact that Jayme escaped on her own and set off the sequence that led to her alleged captor’s arrest.

“That was the first comment I made was that is really going to help her that she saved herself,” Carlson said. “It’s really going to help her recovery. She didn’t have to be saved. She’s already made huge efforts toward reclaiming her life from what happened to her.”

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