Improving mental health is a major goal at Norwalk

NORWALK – Stressful times call for definitive action, particularly when it comes to mental health, a growing bugaboo that is gaining national and local attention.

On Thursday, Norwalk Mayor Harry Rilling issued a proclamation designating May as Mental Health Awareness Month in the county town of Fairfield.

In honor of Mental Health Awareness Month, community leaders hosted the Mental Health NorWALK event on Saturday, May 21.
It will take place on the Norwalk Green, 8 Park St., from 9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. The center of the event is a 1.5 mile walk along with various activities and booths promoting good mental health .

The event aims to raise awareness of how community members can access mental health resources and address the stigma surrounding mental health.
There will be activity booths, speakers, prizes, live music and art throughout the day, including “paint your art”.

Clinicians will also be offering free wellness screenings at the ‘health check from the neck’ booth and will be available to answer mental health questions.

“Similar to national trends and from our local data, we know that youth and adults in Norwalk are experiencing more anxiety and feelings of depression,” said Denique Weidema-Lewis, Director of Equity Action. and collaboration at Norwalk ACTS.
“The Walk and Wellness Fair is an opportunity to connect the community to impactful local resources and have more dialogue about how to increase and maintain good mental health. Norwalk ACTS and The Norwalk Partnership encourage the community to participate in free activities and trainings that take place throughout the community throughout the month.”

In promoting the event and mental health, the mayor was joined by State Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff, D-Norwalk; Dr. Thomas McBryde, Deputy Superintendent of Excellence, Equity and Inclusion at Norwalk; Weidema-Lewis; and Katie Gallo, Norwalk resident and mental health advocate, who shared her personal mental health journey.

Together, city, state and community leaders have sent a strong message to Norwalkers facing mental health issues, providing the community with information on how to access mental health resources locally.

More recently, the city made funding for mental health services one of its top priorities when distributing grants to local nonprofits using federal money from the American Rescue Plan Act.

A significant portion of the $1.5 million in American Rescue Plan Act funding will directly help Norwalk residents with critical mental health needs.

“I want everyone in our community to know that they are not alone and that their mental health matters,” Rilling said. “Too many of our youth and community members are dealing with mental health issues exacerbated by the pandemic. At Norwalk, I am proud that we have prioritized mental health services through federal funding from the American Rescue Plan Act.”

The state legislature has also made mental health a priority this session, especially among children.
He passed three bills approving hundreds of millions of dollars to fund services that will increase the number of mental health providers across the state, as well as school-based health centers.

“The pandemic has turned the cracks in our mental health system into a full-fledged crisis, especially for so many young people,” Duff said.

In 2021, data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that more than a third of high school students reported experiencing poor mental health during the COVID 19 pandemic.

Similarly, a study conducted by The Norwalk Partnership in 2021 found that nearly 40% of middle and high school students reported suffering from depression.

“We are pleased to join today’s efforts to highlight the importance of mental health awareness and care,” McBryde said. “At Norwalk Public Schools, we are committed to providing our students, staff and families with the support they need to get through difficult times. Across the district, we have developed programs to promote positive climates. positive academics, including mindfulness training, mentorship opportunities and more.”

Gallo shared her own personal battle with mental health issues.

“By sharing my personal story, I want to give hope to others who may be struggling with mental health issues and let them know that it’s okay to seek help,” Gallo said. “I also want to eliminate the stigma that still exists that keeps so many people from seeking the treatment they need. The stereotypical depiction of mental illness in movies and on television is not the reality.”

For more information on the mental health event at Norwalk, visit this link.