GREENWICH, Conn., MARCH 30, 2023 – The Greenwich United Way (GUW) presented “A Conversation About Youth Mental Health” at the Foundation House Tuesday evening to raise awareness about local resources to help address the youth mental health crisis in Greenwich. Led by moderator Demetra Ganias, founder of Ganias Media Lab, the panel discussion featured Dr. Amir Garakani, Chair of Psychiatry & Behavioral Health at Greenwich Hospital; Dr. Joshua Hrabosky, program director of Outpatient Behavioral Health; Dr. Toni Jones, superintendent of Greenwich Public Schools; Clarena McBeth, licensed professional counselor; and Debra Hess, Greenwich United Way board member and advocate for youth mental health care.
Introducing the evening’s session, Greenwich United Way CEO David Rabin reiterated the town’s need for accessible mental health resources.
“In our most recent needs assessment research among the subcategories of physical and mental health, respondents placed the highest importance on the need for counseling and identified it as the service area with the largest gap between need and adequate service provision,” said Rabin. “Here we are today, continuing our mission to raise awareness and support for an issue that affects almost everyone one way or another.”
Youth mental health has been a growing concern in recent years, with rising rates of depression, anxiety, and suicide among young people. The COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated these issues, with the social isolation and economic downturn leading to increased stress and mental health challenges. A survey conducted by the American Psychological Association found that Gen Z adults (ages 18-24) reported the worst mental health of any generation during the pandemic.
Access to behavioral health care remains a significant challenge for many individuals. The panelists discussed several barriers to accessing behavioral health care, including stigma, lack of insurance, provider shortages, geographic barriers, and cost of treatment. Addressing these barriers will require a multifaceted approach, including increasing awareness and education, expanding insurance coverage, recruiting and training more providers, and investing in technology to provide telehealth services to those in immediate need. Additionally, the panelists discussed the importance of education for parents to acknowledge and recognize when their child is showing symptoms of distress. Kids often hide or mask their thoughts and feelings, so it's important for parents and teachers to be aware of this. The panelists recommended that adults should pay attention to major, or seemingly major, life events as a potential trigger for distress and dis-ease.
Part of the discussion centered on the new Adolescent Behavioral Health Outpatient Program in Greenwich. The GUW recently partnered with Greenwich Hospital to launch a new Adolescent Behavioral Health Outpatient Program and is committed to raising $1.6 million to support the build-out and operation of the facility. Adolescent Behavioral Health Outpatient Programs offer many benefits for young people struggling with mental health issues. They provide a comprehensive assessment and treatment planning process, evidence-based therapies, a supportive environment, access to peer support, coordination with other healthcare providers, and flexibility.
“Without the backing of the Greenwich United Way and our supporters, this facility simply will not get built in our community,” said Rabin. “Greenwich is in desperate need of accessible mental health care for its young people and we are proud to lead the charge with Greenwich Hospital in building this essential program.”
The GUW’s ongoing program campaign is a critically necessary component for the community’s first behavioral health program designed for young people ages 12 to 18. The new facility will be located at 500 W. Putnam Avenue, co-located with Yale New Haven Children’s Hospital Pediatric Specialty Center in Greenwich. To contribute to GUW’s campaign to build the Adolescent Behavioral Health Outpatient Program or learn more, call 203-869-2221.