A Turning Point For Struggling Youth
We like to think of young adulthood as a time when the world is an exciting place in which to be. But for one out of five Connecticut residents, that world is fraught with anxieties and fears as mental health issues cloud the scene. That population includes teenagers and young adults. According to TurningPointCT.org, 14.6 percent of Connecticut high school students have had serious suicidal thoughts this past year. Count Newtown’s youth in that statistic. Suicide attempts and suicide by people under the age of 25 are not just anecdotal here. They are a reality.
TurningPointCT.org, launched late this summer through funding from the Connecticut Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services and managed by Southwest Regional Mental Health Board, is an easy-to-navigate website created by and with young people from the state, who are in recovery. Believing that like-aged people may have a better chance of reaching young people (18 to 25), TurningPointCT.org provides information and support about mental and behavioral health services, supplied through a conduit youth understands — technology. With access to videos of peers and the stories of hope that they share, young people struggling with bad feelings, suicidal thoughts, or other mental health dilemmas may not feel not so alone, and may open up to the possibility of help.
Newtown youth hurt. Newtown Youth & Family Services statistics for the past year show 1,431 Student Assistance Counselor visits with Newtown High School students, during the school year. Since 12/14 there has been a 150 percent increase in behavioral health appointments made for outpatients, and historically, nearly 50 percent of services provided by NYFS go to young people.
A 2013 Newtown youth survey sponsored by the Newtown Prevention Council and Newtown Public Schools shows the prevalence of 30-day use of alcohol among NHS seniors taking the survey at around 44 percent. More than 14 percent of Newtown juniors and seniors report using prescription stimulants and pain killers not prescribed to themselves. We might ask, what pain and what kinds of pressures are our youth trying to alleviate?
That study’s analysis of answers concerning negative feelings indicated, however, no significant uptick statistically among NHS students, possibly due “to the intensive counseling efforts that have taken place” since 12/14. Mental health issues take a toll on individuals, families, and communities, but counseling can help.
Recently, the Newtown Board of Education wisely approved a grant-funded school-based health clinic at Newtown Middle School that will provide, among other things, a licensed certified social worker and mental health care. It is a move in a positive direction to identify and help young people with mental health issues. There are few towns in this country that understand the devastation that can be wreaked by unattended mental health issues, as does Newtown.
For those youth who may not feel comfortable confiding in an adult, though, TurningPointCT.org is one more tool to offer to Newtown’s young people, who struggle in a way that is unique to our town. Spread the word about TurningPointCT.org. It may be the turning point in the life of a young person you know.