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Health District Promotes Localized Mental Health Services, Info

Visitors to Newtown’s municipal website are immediately greeted with links to supplemental sites that can help them learn about a variety of support and recovery initiatives, as well as a site that showcases the many nonprofit causes that have sprung up in the days and months following 12/14.

But tucked away on the Newtown Health District page is another raft of information on mental health services and issues being made available to the community by Director Donna Culbert.

“I believe Newtown has a variety of opportunities to heal and grow, whether it be in the community members and activities that take place across the town, the houses of worship where many come together in faith, in the quiet beauty of the outdoors that connects us to the greater universe and especially at the dinner table where family can see and feel into the faces and hearts of each other,” she said.

Just like the variety of venues have a different appeal for different folks, so is the search for mental health.

“So the health district offers visitors information about the search for therapy, about different interventions and a listing of providers that have been working to serve our community since December 14th,” she added. “The providers included in this listing have told us they are willing and able to see new clients.”

The Newtown Health District recently added a Mental Health referral page under the Additional Links on its webpage.

“The question many may be asking is, ‘How do I find help?’ or maybe better yet, ‘Where do I find help?’ Part of the answer to that question is to determine what kind of help is being sought,” Ms Culbert said.

The health district leader said it has been a challenge to think about the best way to collect and offer information about mental health support.

“Typically, it could come from a health professional or trusted friend, advisor or family member,” she said, “but asking and knowing what to ask for is not always easy.”

So it was agreed that it could be helpful to post details as an additional way for community members to obtain local, relevant information.

According to the site, individuals might consider therapy if:

*They feel an overwhelming and prolonged sense of helplessness and sadness, and problems do not seem to get better despite personal efforts and help from family and friends.

*They are finding it difficult to carry out everyday activities: for example, individuals are unable to concentrate on assignments at work, and job performance is suffering as a result.

*They worry excessively, expect the worst or are constantly on edge.

*Their actions are harmful to themselves or to others: for instance, if individuals are drinking too much alcohol, abusing drugs or becoming overly argumentative and aggressive.

The district’s Mental Health site provides a list of local providers of mental health support, with a variety of services and training, for those in the community who are looking for help. The webpage includes an introduction, suggestions about when to consider seeking support, brief description of the different types of therapists, a brief description of some different types of training for trauma, and contact information for those professionals that are able and willing to see new clients.

The site walks visitors through their first office visit, during which a mental health professional may want to discuss why an individual thinks he or she needs to come to therapy.

“He or she will want to know about what your symptoms are, how long you’ve had them and what, if anything, you’ve done about them in the past. He or she will probably ask you about your family and your work as well as what you do to relax,” the site states. “This initial conversation is important in developing the appropriate approach to treatment. Before you leave the office, the mental health professional should describe to you the plan for treatment and give you an opportunity to ask any questions you might have.”

According to Ms Culbert, it will likely take several weeks before an individual becomes fully comfortable with their therapy.

“If you still aren’t feeling comfortable after two or three visits, let the mental health professional know and explain why you feel that way,” the site states. “The two of you need to work together as a team in order to get the most out of your treatment.”

The listing has also been shared with area health care professionals in the past several months.

Any questions can be directed to Donna Culbert, director of health for the Newtown Health District, at 203-270-4291 or donna.culbert@newtown-ct.gov.

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