Tag Archives: Positive Directions

Positive Directions Offers Suicide Help

This week’s stories on suicide have stirred many responses. 

They’ve also shined a light on the good work so many people and organizations do to de-stigmatize, raise awareness of, and prevent this tragic, and increasing, cause of death.

Denique Weidema-Lewis — director of prevention at Positive Directions, the Westport-based substance abuse and mental health service — offers condolences to the Snedeker family, and appreciation for their post. She adds:

Tragically, the suicide rate has risen by about 30% in the past 20 years. This terrible increase reflects a need for public health efforts throughout our communities, focusing on creating a healthy culture, strengthening our families, developing workplace wellness, teaching coping skills, and making services available and affordable.

 

As someone who has been affected by suicide  both professionally and personally, I want to share some local resources on how we as a community are working to prevent suicide.

In recognition of National Suicide Prevention week (September 8-14), Positive Directions will host 2 free gatekeeper trainings.

Just as people trained in CPR and the Heimlich maneuver save thousands of lives each year, people trained in Question, Persuade, Refer (QPR) learn how to recognize the warning signs of a suicide crisis, and how to question, persuade, and refer someone to help.

QPR will be offered at our office (90 Post Road West; click here to register) on Wednesday, September 11, from 6:30 to 8 p.m., and at Brien McMahon High School in Norwalk on Thursday, September 12 (6:30 to 8 p.m.; (click here to register).

Additionally, we are proud supporters of the Connecticut Chapter of American Foundation of Suicide Prevention, and help sponsor the annual Westport Out of the Darkness Walk at Sherwood Island. This year’s event is Saturday, October 26 (10 a.m.; click here for more information).

The walk raises awareness and funds that allow the AFSP to invest in research, create local educational programs, advocate for public policy, and support survivors of suicide loss.

We encourage everyone to be aware of resources. Locally, we are members of The HUB CT which provides behavioral health resource guides (click here for great information).

If you or someone you know needs help, call the National Lifeline 24/7 (800-273-TALK), or call 211 to be connected to a mobile crisis service near you in Connecticut.

The Crisis Text Line is another great option: text “hello” to 741741.

Martha!

It’s been a dozen years since Martha Stewart sold her Turkey Hill home, and moved to Westchester. Both she and we moved on.

But Westport and Martha remain an item in the minds and hearts of the many followers who still revere the lifestyle guru.

And this weekend, diehard fans from as far as Wisconsin and Canada will make a pilgrimage here, for her.

On Saturday, June 3, Positive Directions — the Westport-based awareness and treatment program for adolescents, adults and families affected by addiction — sponsors a private afternoon tour of Martha’s old farmhouse and gardens.

Locals will be there. Joining them is a flock of others, for whom the chance to meet their idol — at the actual spot where her empire began — is worth a trip from anywhere.

On Saturday, Martha Stewart returns to Turkey Hill.

Joey Jelnicki calls himself “the biggest Martha Stewart fan,” and he may well be. He lives in Philadelphia, but he calls his gardens “Turkey Hill.” His email address is “WestportJoe81.”

He’s had it ever since he got his first computer as a kid 20 years ago. Westport is “a place I can only dream about calling home,” he says. “It’s country living and beaches — the best of both worlds.”

On Joey Jelnicki’s previous visit to Westport, he posed at this sign.

“I adore Martha,” Joey says. “She adds a touch of class and good things to what can be a hard life to live.”

He has goosebumps thinking of walking through Turkey Hill — which he calls “my Graceland.”

It will be Joey’s first time meeting Martha in person (they talked once on her radio show for 7 minutes). But it won’t be his first visit to Westport.

Several years ago he stayed at the Westport Inn (which he’ll do again). He walked up and down the Post Road, swam at Sherwood Island, shopped locally, and talked with everyone he could about the town.

“Hearing how people grew up in Westport was great,” Joey says.

Dennis Landon’s email pays even more direct homage: “MarthaFan.” The Madison, Wisconsin resident has loved her ever since 1993, when a co-worker gave him her magazine. He got great ideas about changing a room’s shape with paint.

He’s kept copies of every magazine since, and videotaped nearly all the “Martha Stewart Living” TV shows. He’s converting them all to DVD.

“My life in the kitchen and garden has been totally been influenced by Martha,” Dennis says. “Her guidance over all these years is timeless.”

Dennis Landon, in his Martha-inspired Wisconsin kitchen.

The chance to take a tour — led by Martha herself — “really hasn’t sunk in yet,” he admits. “It doesn’t seem possible.”

Dennis flies in 3 days early. He hopes to visit some of the Westport places she’s referenced over the years.

Nathan Schmidt

Nathan Schmidt will drive here from Pittsburgh. He’s been a fan since 1992, when he was not yet 15 and his parents bought him a Christmas gift: the book “Martha Stewart’s New Old House.” He devoured it, and has re-read it many times since.

His friends encouraged him to come here, for “the chance of a lifetime.” A ticket to the tour was expensive, but Nathan says it supports a good cause.

He has been to Westport a number times — he even had a job interview here once. He’s driven past Turkey Hill — and the Adams house on Long Lots, the subject of his holiday gift book — but this will be his first chance meeting his idol, and touring her property.

Rox-Anne Henderson will be coming with her mother from Kitchener, Ontario, making this an international event.

Rox-Anne Henderson in Ontario, with the Canadian flag.

In fact, she says, besides her parents only Martha has influenced her life more. Rox-Anne was introduced to the magazine in 1990, at age 9; got her own subscription at 16, and learned to bake, craft and can her own food, all by reading and watching.

A few years ago Rox-Anne started her own lifestyle blog: Celebrating This Life. When creating content, she always asks, “What would Martha do?” That silent guiding voice has taught Rox-Anne that women can be both homemakers and business people.

The chance to speak to — and perhaps pose for a photo with — Martha makes Rox-Anne dizzy. She’s never been to Westport, but follows a few local bloggers.

“I’m excited to explore the city for myself!” she says.

Martha has been gone a while. But Turkey Hill remains a storied destination for many of her fans.

We look forward to welcoming Martha Stewart back this weekend.

And if you see Joey, Dennis, Nelson or Rox-Anne — or any other Martha devotees — give them a big “06880” hello!

(A few tickets remain for Saturday’s event. Click here for details.)

Jack Norman’s Very Positive Direction

Jack Norman’s parents divorced when he was young. His dad had a drinking problem. When he lost his job, Jack’s mother picked up a second job, to support Jack and his younger brother.

One day when Jack was 13, he stayed home from his school sick. His dad came to take care of him. When Jack woke from a nap and asked for a sandwich, his father stood up — and passed out. He’d been drinking all morning.

Jack cut off all contact with him. Two months later, his father died.

Soon, Jack’s mom — 1985 Staples High School graduate Jen Rago — returned to her hometown from Atlanta. She’d be closer to her family, and her sons could attend better schools.

Jack thrived as a Coleytown Middle School 8th grader. The next year, at Staples High, he discovered Players and the Teen Awareness Group. He stage managed 18 shows, as well as music department and other performances. He served as TAG’s treasurer; this year as a senior, he’s president.

Last summer, he worked at A Child’s Place. He also babysits through CrossFit Westport’s daycare program.

Jack Norman, working behind the scenes as stage manager. (Photo/Kerry Long)

Jack is a role model for many students. Through TAG, he talks to freshman health classes about the challenges of growing up, and the toll addiction takes on individuals and their families. He is open about his life, and the devastating effects of his father’s alcoholism.

Now, Jack is reaching an even broader audience. “Jack’s Story” has been posted on Positive Directions’ website. And he’s featured in the organization’s new PSA.

When the non-profit mental health and addictive behaviors education/ prevention program asked for volunteers to share their stories, Jack never hesitated.

His TAG presentations — which began when he was a sophomore — have convinced him of the importance of letting students know they’re not alone.

“I’ve been lucky enough to have resources, and a support system,” the articulate, insightful and very energetic teenager says.

“My mom has been there for me. Mr. Frimmer at Coleytown, and the theater family at Staples, they’ve been great too.”

So Jack talks — at Staples, and now online. He describes growing up with an alcoholic father. His painful decision to cut off contact. Writing something that was read at the funeral.

When he first moved to Westport, Jack says, new friends asked about his parents. Jack tried to protect them from hearing the truth.

However, he soon realized, “death is a reality. If you can’t talk about it, it consumes you.” TAG gave him the opportunity to break down the stigma surrounding addiction, and to encourage, empower and inspire many others.

Jack Norman

The day after one of Jack’s talks, a freshman approached him during a Players rehearsal. Tearfully, she said she was sorry for his loss.

“I’m okay,” Jack replied. “But how are you?”

“It’s just good to know other people understand,” she said simply. They hugged.

“Knowing someone felt less alone, that’s very satisfying,” Jack says. Even if they don’t tell him everything, he’s helped them take one step on a long journey.

The Positive Directions PSA does the same thing. “The whole idea is to get the message out there,” Jack explains. That message is: It can happen to anyone.

This fall, Jack heads to college. He hopes to study stage management.

And he knows he will continue to speak up.

Dancing With The Stars — And Be One Yourself!

“Dancing With the Stars” is a hit TV show. It’s spawned an entire genre of fundraising events.

Positive Directions is following in step — but with a twist.

Moshe Aelyon -- one Westport star -- will be dancing with another.

Moshe Aelyon — one Westport star — will be dancing with another.

On Saturday, October 18 (6:30 p.m., Patterson Club), the Westport-based youth development and counseling service offers “A Chance to Dance.” There’s the familiar format, sure: 6 local celebrities (including Westport designer Moshe Aelyon, Safe Rides co-founder Julie Mombello and graphic designer Miggs Burroughs) pair with professional dancers for a very entertaining segment, and are judged by a panel including Bill Mitchell.

But everyone else can shake their booty too. There’s also a contest to find the happiest dancer(s).

Anyone can submit a short video of dancing anywhere, any way, to Pharrell Williams’ “Happy” song.

You can dance by yourself, with a partner (or more). You can dance well or poorly. You can dance seriously or funnily.

Just dance! Make the Positive Directions folks happy.

(And pay $100. It’s a fundraiser, after all.)

Here’s Liz Beeby’s effort:

The entry deadline is Monday, October 6. The top 40 entries will be shown during the “A Chance to Dance” gala.

The winner will receive “Serenity,” an original artwork by — who else? — Miggs  Burroughs.

But, of course, if you pay your $100 and submit your video to help Positive Directions, you’re already a winner.

(For more details on submitting your video, and ticket information for the event, click the “A Chance to Dance” website.)

Behind Closed Doors?

Jews and substance abuse.

To some, that’s an oxymoron.  To others — Jewish community leaders and addiction professionals alike — that denial is as much a problem as alcohol and drugs themselves.

Which is why on Wednesday, April 21, Jewish Family Service is co-sponsoring an interactive panel discussion:  “Behind Closed Doors?  Alcoholism & Addiction in the Jewish Community.”

The free event is set for 7 p.m. at the 420 Post Road West offices of Positive Directions, the non-profit, non-sectarian social service agency that is also sponsoring the event.

Panelists — including addiction experts; the coordinator of JFS’s J PASS program (Jewish Partnership for Addiction Support and Services), and a Jewish man in recovery — will discuss long-standing cultural and religious traditions surrounding the issue of substance abuse, and describe services available to the Jewish community.

“Alcohol, gambling and other addictions run under the radar in Jewish communities,” said Eve Moskowitz, JFS director of clinical services.

“Jews don’t have a place to address addictions, because they and their families think it’s not appropriate for them to have addictions.”

“AA is wonderful, but Jews don’t always go there,” added Marty Hauhuth, executive director of Positive Directions.  “A lot of meetings are held in churches, and they end with the Lord’s Prayer.”

JFS tried a similar program, with limited success.  So they’ve partnered with Positive Directions, in hopes of reaching a broader audience.

This is not Positive Directions’ 1st time addressing the issue.  They’ve worked with the UJA on a “Jews in Recovery” program, as well as with the JFS on a better-attended session at the Westport Y.

Is this the 1st religious group that has partnered with Positive Directions?  Hauhuth paused to think.

Temple Israel has always been very generous with funding for Positive Directions, and so have several churches,” she noted.  “And we get many referrals from religious groups, all the time.  We’re always open to any community group that wants to work with us.”

(For more information, call Positive Directions at 203-227-7644, or Eve Moskowitz at 203-921-4161.)

Surveying The Scene

A small crowd discussed some big ideas about drugs and alcohol — Westport-style — at Town Hall last night.

Positive Directions and a panel of Staples students presented the results of several recent surveys.

Some results were unsurprising. Alcohol and marijuana use by teenagers is prevalent.  There is a strong correlation between drinking and drugs.  Parents underestimate what their own kids are doing.

Some of the results did surprise.  Twenty of the parents surveyed had hosted a party with alcohol for teens — and nearly all said they were aware of the underage alcohol law.  Among students and parents, cigarettes are perceived to be more harmful than either marijuana or alcohol.

But, as often happens, the best information came from the students themselves.

Four members of Staples’ Teen Awareness Group presented their own surveys.  And while 60% of seniors (and 10% of juniors) admitted to drinking and driving, 80 percent said their parents have done the same thing.  When asked whether they’ve ever been in a car with a drunk driver, student after student asked the TAG members:  “Do my parents count?”

You bet they do.  In more ways than they realize, parents count.