Regional Board Discusses Mental Health Issues In Norwalk

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Esteban Francisco Sebourne talks about the community conversations at the annual meeting of the Southwest Regional Mental Health Board in Norwalk.
Esteban Francisco Sebourne talks about the community conversations at the annual meeting of the Southwest Regional Mental Health Board in Norwalk. Photo Credit: Casey Donahue

NORWALK, Conn. -- The Southwest Regional Mental Health Board met Thursday, June 19, in Norwalk for its annual meeting to highlight some of the accomplishments of the past year, as well as to preview a new resource for young adults with mental health issues.

The board is a nonprofit organization funded by the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services and serves communities all over Fairfield County. Its mandate is to assess the regional need for mental health services, evaluate services receiving public funding and advocate for the mental health needs of the region at the state level. At the annual meeting, board members elected a new executive committee and recognized the volunteers who work to raise awareness of mental health issues.

"All of us really do need to work together to try to make things happen, to raise awareness and to try improve the behavioral health system in our region," said Margaret Watt, executive director of the Southwest Regional Mental Health Board.

Among the accomplishments touted over the past year were a series of 49 community conversations held throughout Fairfield County. These conversations included gatherings of parents, students, seniors, teachers, social workers, psychologists and elected officials, as well as audience-specific events for teens, homeless individuals, members of the LGBTQ community and Hispanic immigrants. Participants discussed how to inform the public about seeking help, how to fight the stigma and discrimination that can accompany mental illness and how to increase access to quality care.

Esteban Francisco Sebourne helped facilitate one of the community conversations in Spanish in Bridgeport. He said that the conversation was enlightening and that one of the revelations that came out of it was that many people in the Hispanic community have a hard time getting access to mental health.

"Individuals that don't have the facility of communicating in another language, and having also other difficulties other than communication, find that they cannot get the help they need because they're overlooked. And it needs to change," Sebourne said. "There has to be an understanding that here are individuals just like any other individual, and there's a need to see to it that the help they should have is there for them. We find that this is not the case in many instances."

The board also previewed a new online resource for young adults, TurningPointCT.org. The site will feature resources for people who are seeking help with a mental illness or substance abuse issue, a forum for young people to ask questions, personal stories of people who have suffered from mental illness, means for young adults to access care and a way for them to share their own stories. The website will launch in the fall.

The Southwest Regional Mental Health Board is a citizens' advisory council that works to ensure a high-quality mental health system that promotes recovery and well-being for the residents of Bridgeport, Darien, Easton, Fairfield, Greenwich, Monroe, New Canaan, Norwalk, Stamford, Stratford, Trumbull, Weston, Westport, and Wilton.

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