The Day – Resources shared at a mental health forum in New London

New London – Representatives from across New London came together on Tuesday evening to show unity and share the mental health resources available to the community following the shooting that killed 19 children and two teachers last week at the Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.

City Social Services Director Jeanne Milstein, one of the speakers at the CB Jennings International Elementary Magnet School mental health forum, said the New London community stands with the victims of Uvalde, as well as with all those who have suffered tragedies, and with members of the community who have experienced traumatic events.

“Children deserve to feel safe and protected in school and to live lives full of happiness, well-being and hope,” Milstein said. “Children deserve every opportunity to pursue his, her, their possibility, their promise and their potential.”

She said those in attendance at the forum — titled “A Community Conversation to Learn More About the Various Mental Health Supports Available” — including representatives from the city, school, community organizations and religious institutions, work together to try to prevent and remedy these terrible losses.

Among resources, Milstein said the National Child Traumatic Stress Network,, has a wonderful website.

At the forum, which was attended by 32 community members and leaders, speakers shared ongoing initiatives to keep people safe and available mental health resources for individuals and families. Materials were also available on topics, such as how to talk to children about tragedy, and participants wrote their own ideas on index cards.

Matthew Olson from New London, who suffers from paranoid schizophrenia, said community forums like these are important for raising awareness about mental health. He was there with his best friend, Kyle Freehart, who also has paranoid schizophrenia. They are both undergoing social therapy at Sound Community Services, 21 Montauk Ave.

Olson said mental health needs to be discussed at the high school level, starting in eighth or ninth grade, so people can know the warning signs and get help.

Freehart said if mental health was taught more in high school, he thinks there would be lower suicide rates among teens and less gun violence. He also recommended social therapy for children of all ages, especially high school students.

City Recreation Director Tommie Major said the school district has excellent counseling initiatives. He said it’s important to “change our culture” and “We have to sit down with our kids and tell them it’s OK, it’s OK to get help.”

State Rep. Anthony Nolan, D-New London, also shared resources available to people, such as the 211 system, school district social workers and counselors, and support from faith leaders.

He shared recent state gun laws, including legislation regarding ghost guns and storing a pistol or revolver in a motor vehicle, but said there were still a lot to do. He said it was important to push for sensible gun legislation and encouraged people to reach out to federal and state lawmakers. He said he supported a special state legislative session.

Nolan said he thinks “it’s time to stop putting band-aids” on it and pass legislation that will keep communities safe.

School district officials also shared a slew of things underway to make school buildings safe, including setting up a basic security team and mental health supports.

City Police Chief Brian Wright said the New London Police Department was the first agency in the North East to have Crisis Response Team training, which builds listening skills active, and half of the staff in the department have been trained so far, with the aim of reaching out to the whole department. He said the department has also launched High-Five Fridays, where police officers visit a different school each week to show their support for students, as well as milk and cookie events to foster open dialogue. between students and police. The ministry is also looking to implement new programs, such as a youth police academy.

Wright also said the police department is proactive in holding briefings following incidents in nearby New London, across the country or overseas. The department is looking at the incident, trying to make it applicable to the city, and thinking about what they could or would have done if faced with this situation.

School board president Elaine Maynard-Adams said this is the first of what will hopefully be a series of community conversations.

School superintendent Cynthia Ritchie told The Day that Uvalde’s tragedy continues to be heartbreaking on so many levels. The initial idea for a community forum came from city mayor Michael Passero, Maynard-Adams and Nolan, later Ritchie, Rabbi Marc Ekstrand of Temple Emanu-El in Waterford, and New London NAACP president, Jean Jordan, who joined in the brainstorming. Ritchie said school district officials, school board members, Passero, Nolan, Wright, Milstein, city departments, the NAACP, faith-based organizations and several New London-based community organizations work together regularly to support students and families.

Ritchie said they all felt it was important to look at the variety of resources available in New London so that anyone would be aware in case someone needed mental health or social services.

“We also wanted to show our team approach and share a variety of available contacts so people know who to turn to if they or someone they know needs help,” she said, adding that officials also wanted to bring people together to network. and “sharing strengths to contribute to the common goals of New London as a welcoming, supportive and proactive community”.

“We hope the citizens of New London know that there is a network of people across the city who care and are available and this network continues to grow as more and more people rise up to show compassion, of kindness, concern and stepping forward to help plan and implement positive action,” Ritchie said. “Mental health matters. The New London community embraces supports for all.

Ekstrand, who represented the Greater New London Clergy Association, said Uvalde’s shooting attacks people’s sense of community and he encouraged people to talk to each other and stick together.

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