Tag Archives: Westport Together

Mental Health Awareness Month: You Are Not Alone

May is Mental Health Awareness Month.

For centuries, “mental illness” was a taboo subject — ignored, covered up or lied about.

Only recently has it come out of the shadows. We now talk about “mental health,” more than “mental illness.” It’s as vital to our lives as physical health.

Of course, there’s still a long way to go.

Westport Together — a partnership between the town’s Department of Human Services, Positive Directions, and the Westport Public Schools and PTAs — has put together a comprehensive calendar of events.

Every day this month, a virtual event focuses on some aspect of mental health. Highlights include:

  • “Adolescent Mental Health in 2021: Challenges and Caregiver Strategies” (May 12, 6:30 p.m.) Dr. Aaron Weiner discusses how to tell what’s normal, what’s a ore significant mental health concern, and how parents can support their kids. Click here to register.
  • Mental health for elementary school youngsters (May 13, 7 p.m.) For children and their trusted adults, “Gizmo’s Pawsome Guide” is a story-time read-along that introduces the topic in an accessible way, and offers tips and guidelines for coping. Click here to register.
  • “If They Had Known” (May 10, 7 p.m.), a documentary about the dangers of combining prescription drugs and alcohol. Email info@positivedirections.org for the Zoom link.
  • LifeLines — Melissa Bernstein’s new project — offers free daily workshops. Ranging from “Breaking Up With Your Inner Critic” to “Tracing Your Triggers,” they help people feel seen, heard and appreciated. Click here for more information.

Other events range from suicide prevention and raising children during the pandemic to shattering the myth of mental illness and “laughing yoga.” Click here for the full monthly calendar.

LifeLines offers a different activity every day this month.

Westport Together also compiled a list of resources for Westporters dealing with isolation, stress, depression, substance use or other issues. It includes:

All Ages

Westport Department of Human Services: Information and help with mental health referrals, food and financial assistance; 203-341-1050.

WestportTogether.org: Subscribe to email lisit for youth and family resources.

Youth

Westport Youth Services Bureau: Casework, referrals, mentoring; 203-341-1150.

Teen Talk: Free counseling provided by Kids in Crisis at school or through hotline; 203-341-1285 (school-based counselor) or 203-661-1911 (hotline).

Liberation Programs: Free drug and alcohol counseling at Staples High School; 203-399-3520.

Toquet Hall: Student-run activities center; 203-341-1155.

Resources are available for anyone who feels isolated.

Older adults

Senior Center: Programs and support; 203-341-5099.

Westport Weston Health District: Homebound visits, safety checks; 203-227-9571.

Behavioral Health

Positive Directions: Mental health and substance use counseling, prevention, support groups; 203-227-7644.

TurningPointCT.org: Online options and peer support by and for teens and young adults; based in Westport at Positive Directions.

NAMI: Support groups and training programs by and for families with a loved one with mental illness.

The Hub: Regional options for treatment and support.

(Hat tip: Elaine Daignault)

COVID-19 Roundup: Trout Brook, Barnes & Noble Reopen; Face Mask Messages; More


After discussions with Weston officials, Aspetuck Land Trust is reopening Trout Brook Valley’s largest parking lot — the one on Bradley Road. It will be available starting tomorrow (Monday, April 27), on weekdays only. NOTE: Dogs are not allowed!

Click here for information on all 42 ATL preserves’, and their hiking trails.


Staples High School 1988 graduate Scott Froschauer is now a Los Angeles artist. He’s gotten lots of attention for works that use street signs to convey more useful instructions (like “Breathe” and “All We Have is Now”).

Longtime Westporters Ann Sheffer and Bill Scheffler — who spent part of the year in Palm Springs — are huge fans. They bought some of his work even before they knew the local connection.

Now, Ann reports, Scott is making face masks. They’re like his street signs, with messages like “Dream,” “Smile” and “Do Your Best.”

And, of course, “Breathe.” Click here to order.


Good news: Barnes & Noble is back open. Curbside pickup is available from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

That news comes from Nina Sankovitch, who has particular reason to be pleased. Her newest book — American Rebels: How the Hancock, Adams, and Quincy Families Fanned the Flames of Revolution — is well stocked there.

Anyone buying her book there will receive a nice gift: one of Nina’s American Rebels tote bags (below).

And, she promises, once the virus is gone, she’ll be happy to sign your book.


Two weeks ago, “06880” posted a video of 1970 Staples High School graduate Stephen Wall — now a tenor with the Seattle Opera — entertaining his socially distancing neighbors with a rousing rendition of “Nessun Dorma.”

This week he’s back, bolder and more rousing than ever. Here he is, with his “Friday Figaro.”


This is not stop-the-presses news: raising teenagers is hard. These days, it’s even tougher.

Tomorrow (Monday, April 27, 12 to 1 p.m.), Westport Together sponsors a webinar: “Parenting High School Juniors and Seniors During the Coronavirus Pandemic.”

The program features local mental health professionals Deb Slocum of the Staples High School Counseling Department, Karen Krupnik of Positive Directions, and director of Westport Public Schools psychological services Dr. Valerie Babich. They’ll discuss ways to develop social, academic and emotional skills needed for life after high school. To register, click here or watch on Facebook Live.

Next month, Westport Together hosts more virtual discussion groups for parents of elementary, middle and high school students. Click here for their website.


Beechwood Arts’ “Coming Out Of COVID” event planned for this Wednesday (April 29) is postponed. The reason: a death in the organizers’ family. from complications of the coronavirus.

It will be rescheduled. For more information, click here.


And finally … Dionne Warwick reminds us of a simple, yet very important, truth:

“Westport Together”: It Takes A Village To Raise Our Kids

As long as there have been teenagers, adults have worried about them.

In 1996 the United Way organized 2 townwide forums on youth issues. They led to the formation of Positive Youth Development: a collaborative effort to support youngsters and their families in their homes, at school and throughout the community.

The goal was to prevent risky behavior by providing parental education and support, rather than correcting challenges after something happens.

PTAs helped too.

Dialogue between groups resulted in new programs, including Toquet Hall, Community Service Corps, school psychologist meetings, Suniya Luthar’s research, a schoolwide substance abuse survey, and Risky Behavior Forums.

Now, 20 years after its formation, Positive Youth Development is being revitalized. Teenagers face new challenges (along with the old ones). Town organizations and non-profits have changed.

Information comes at us all in a firehose. In a torrent of emails, meeting notifications and online platforms, it’s easy to miss important ideas.

It’s time for the community to help its young people in different ways.

This morning, at Human Services’ 23rd annual breakfast for mental health professionals, the department will launch “Westport Together.”

It’s a new alliance that advocates for resilient youth, healthy families and strong communities; provides education through programs, presentations and resources, and enhances connections among families, schools and the entire town.

The PYD philosophy remains the same. But Westport Together hopes to enhance links between town and school programs; improve communication among partners and community members, and increase participation and information sharing.

A new website brings a number of youth, parenting and community programs together in one place. There are also pages for upcoming events, and a rich array of resources.

Westport Together alliance members include:

  • Westport Public Schools
  • Westport PTA
  • Town of Westport (Human Services, Police, Fire, Parks & Recreation)
  • Earthplace
  • Westport Library
  • MoCA
  • Positive Directions — Center for Counseling and Prevention
  • RULER (parent group)
  • Wakeman Town Farm
  • Westport Museum for History and Culture
  • Westport Prevention Coalition
  • Westport Weston Health District
  • Westport Family YMCA

Second selectman Jennifer Tooker

Second selectman Jen Tooker helped lead the project, along with Human Services director Elaine Daignault, youth services program director Kevin Godburn and school district coordinator of psychological services Valerie Babich.

Tooker says, “This is more than a revitalization of PYD. It’s a declaration of our commitment to, and prioritization of, the health and well-being of our youth.

“We want Westporters to know this is not an easy topic to tackle. We understand it takes a village to support this initiative. The village is ready and working!”

Back in the day, Daignault adds, “when a kid walked through town, people knew him and looked out for him. There was less chance of risky behavior.

“With Westport Together, we hope to get back to that time when everyone looked out for our kids — together.”