To the Editors:
Back to school is an exciting time of year. A chance to start fresh, see friends, and restart fall sports and activities. There is much to look forward to, especially as we hope for a “normal” school year.
However, there are also struggles that, perhaps, have not gone away since the end of the last school year, or that are rekindled as children re-enter the buildings. Sadly, there is a mental health crisis among children across the country.
While we’d love to say that these challenges don’t exist in Wilton, we know that’s not the case. These issues were building before COVID and have only gotten worse — with more children and teens struggling and at younger ages. The painful reality is that a large number of children, teens and their families are suffering around us every day. For those confronted with bullying, social anxiety, and pressure to perform academically and athletically, problems may even be amplified as the school year starts.
Wilton is among a number of towns in Fairfield County which has lost students to suicide in recent years. The frequency of these tragedies alongside untold numbers of attempts and hospitalizations is alarming. There is no stereotypical person who suffers from mental health challenges — they include incredible athletes, strong students, good friends, extroverts, and school leaders. What we see is not necessarily a reflection of the distress someone is facing. For those dealing with anxiety, depression, bullying, eating disorders, substance abuse, domestic violence, or other issues — all of which exist in Wilton — the needs are acute. Equally, parents and siblings are under enormous stress.
We need to ensure that our community is equipped to face these issues head-on. Below is a list of some resources that are available today. We are grateful for the work of these organizations, and their volunteers and staff. The school district is working to care for students’ mental health and has dedicated resources to help, though more is needed. The school budget is already tight and its primary focus is, rightfully, on teaching. More must be done to serve this growing need; the current services are absolutely not adequate.
Investment in mental health services so that we are able to respond to the need is a priority. As a start, we have formed a Wilton Mental Health Task Force to build awareness, bring together the resources that already exist and collaborate to expand the services that we have available to deal with these problems. In the coming weeks, we intend to offer a wish list that will be of immediate benefit to Wilton students and families. To be sure, this will come with a price tag. However, we believe that individuals, local businesses, and the town can come together to support this life-saving initiative.
These are not problems that are easily solved, but we acknowledge the scope of the problem and recognize that more can be done. As September is National Suicide Prevention month, it is important that we keep this discussion out in the open and act proactively in addressing the mental health needs in Wilton.
We can not afford to wait for the next event or crisis that makes front page news to react. There is too much to lose by waiting to pick up the pieces.
If you would like to learn more and get involved, please email us.