Darien is looking for a solution to a teenage mental health crisis following the death of a student.

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DARIEN — The mood on the Darien High School campus was dark and reflexive on Monday morning. The students spoke quietly and sat quietly in class trying to understand the weekend news that another of their classmates had died.

Leaders and parents are now questioning what more towns and school districts can do to assess a student’s mental health to prevent further tragedy.

“We are absolutely worried that this could happen again,” said director Alan Adley. “You are not only trying to understand where your students are in the process of sadness, but you are really trying to help them through the process of mental health … that is my greatest fear.”

Darien finds himself struggling to survive the fast-growing adolescent mental health crisis. Not only that.

National emergency

Even before the pandemic, the data show that the increasing rate of decline in mental health in the younger population was becoming more apparent.

According to a 2020 survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the suicide rate for adolescents aged 10 to 24 in the United States increased by 57% between 2007 and 2018.

In 2021, US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy issued a advisory warning about the “unprecedented” damage to adolescents’ mental health from a pandemic.

Frank Bartolomeo, Senior Clinical Adviser for Adolescent Services at Silverhill Hospital in New Kenan, said: “I don’t think any of us can really say that there is a single factor that leads to the amount of pain and despair we are seeing in our children right now.”

According to the CDC, the rate of depression, anxiety and hopelessness is now the highest ever in the country.

The pandemic almost certainly exacerbated the problem, but townspeople talked about their belief that the long-standing focus on school districts, movements, and other successes is a major factor in the current crisis.

“Children are struggling. It’s a very pressured city and there’s a lot of achievement enthusiasm,” said Crysta Carnes, a resident and parent of Darien.

At a board of education meeting on May 24, Chairman David Dineen acknowledged that the school district’s focus on achievement had a negative impact, and school officials re-established the school district’s culture in the summer. Said to evaluate.

“Recognized as a leader in musicals, clubs and councils, number one in academics and sports, and equipped with the best equipment, the anxiety, stress, pressure, culture to constantly compete and win is spiritual and It leads to the physical health and suicide of the students, “said Dineen.

Future conversation

Adley said the district was immediately interested in grief therapy following Tohsen’s death on May 21, but discussions on how to tackle suicide prevention were imminent.

“There is no doubt that there are great expectations. Obviously, there is no doubt that we are under pressure from our youth,” Adly said.

However, it is unclear how to move away from the community culture of academic and athletic pressure, Addley said. The government and the school board will engage in these conversations in the coming months.

Meanwhile, several agencies in the town are trying to deal with the crisis.

Working with the Community Fund, the town is working to form a task force in Darien dedicated to mental health.

Last week, executive director Laura Downing said Darien Depot plans to increase its programming to reflect the crisis and provide young people in the town with more opportunities to gather at the facility.

In a community conversation held after Thorsen’s death, experts said parents who were afraid of their child’s mental health should not be afraid to take up the topic of death and suicide right now.

Bartolomeo, a Silver Hill expert, told his parents that he should tackle difficult conversations about mental health without feeling any judgment or anxiety. Adopting what he called “toxic aggressiveness”, that is, telling his children that they are in better condition than others, or that their situation will definitely improve, is counterproductive. He said.

“Ironically, many of the children I work with in a wealthy community may not be eligible for emotional pain, so I am very reluctant to feel emotional pain. I often feel guilty about it, “said Bartolomeo. “They almost feel sick about what they feel sick.”

If you or anyone you know is suffering from the idea of ​​suicide, the National Suicide Prevention Hotline can be reached 24/7 at 800-273-8255.

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