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Norwalk photos: Students promote mental wellness to help peers

Norwalk high school students participating in an activity during their lunch period. (Daydream Communications)

NORWALK, Conn. — Surveys show a youth mental health crisis stemming from the pandemic and an increased rate of suicide nationwide, so a band of Norwalk teenagers have created Norwalk Strong, “a group that promotes mental wellness and substance use prevention at both Brien McMahon and Norwalk High Schools,” a news release said Monday.

“I do this because I’ve seen many people struggle with their mental health – friends, family and even myself – so I want to try to help people in any way that I can,” said BMHS junior Sof Ramos in the release. “I also know people who have struggled with substance use and addiction, which is why I want to raise awareness and try to bring about change to make a positive difference in people’s lives.”

In June, nearly half of Norwalk Public School high school students reported they were depressed and 13% considered suicide, in a survey conducted by Positive Directions for The Norwalk Partnership.

A wellness box. (Daydream Communications)

Monday’s news release said:

The group has done a variety of activities since starting in November, including hosting a holiday movie night and creating wellness boxes filled with kind notes, sensory items, and crisis hotlines for students to access around school to support their mental health. This semester they are running monthly activity tables during lunch that focus on awareness and prevention related to substance use. In February, 400 students visited the tables to learn about vaping and a similar number came to the marijuana tables in March.

“We know vaping is increasing again in our schools, and our surveys show that far too many students don’t recognize the risks of vaping or marijuana,” said Margaret Watt, co-chair of The Norwalk Partnership, which works closely with the students. “Our surveys also show that the students who are depressed or have considered suicide are 1.5 to three times more likely to use substances.”

The efforts of Norwalk Strong have been well received by the student body. Many items were taken from the wellness boxes that were placed around the schools and hundreds of students have visited the activity tables during lunch. This month, their outreach will focus on alcohol education. They’re also planning to form a team and encourage their fellow students to participate in NorWALK for Mental Health, the first annual walk sponsored by The Norwalk Partnership, Norwalk ACTS and Norwalk Community College. The walk will simultaneously kick off Mental Health Awareness Month and celebrate National Prevention Week and will take place Saturday, May 7, 2022 on the Norwalk Green. In addition to the walk, people will be able to visit a “Check In” wellness fair with fun activities, music, giveaways and mental health resources.

To learn more about getting involved with Norwalk Strong or NorWALK for Mental Health, visit The Norwalk Partnership website at www.thenorwalkpartnership.org.

Norwalk high school students at an activity table during their lunch period. (Daydream Communications)

 

Display at a table during a high school lunch period. (Daydream Communications)

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