July 25, 2023 – Molly Ingram

Connecticut schools are struggling to meet the demand for student mental health support.

In Fairfield County, some schools have turned to a program called TeenTalk.

The program is offered by the nonprofit Kids in Crisis. It places an experienced counselor in schools to offer individual counseling and group sessions.

They also offer a respite center for kids who need a break from their homes, and a 24-hour crisis center hotline.

Stamford Mayor Caroline Simmons wants to bring the program to high schools across the city.

“At all stages of your life, you go through ups and downs and have mental health challenges,” Simmons said. “And the most important thing is that there’s resources thanks to all of you in this room, to provide that support, to provide that care. So I can’t tell you how proud I am of our community.”

Elected officials, school administrators and students gathered at the Kids in Crisis TeenTalk Summit at the Academy of Information Technology and Engineering in Stamford on Tuesday.

They spoke about the impact that the program has had on their school communities.

“We will never have enough mental health support for our students,” Stamford Superintendent Tamu Lucero said. “But what we know is that when we have community partners, it makes it just a little bit easier for us.”

School officials said the COVID-19 pandemic was especially harmful for kids’ mental health. Since the pandemic, they have seen an increase in absenteeism, long-term suicidal ideation and family conflicts.

Gov. Ned Lamont said he was not expecting the long-term consequences on students.

“I thought getting back to school was going to be the tonic for everybody,” Lamont said. “But you know, it created a lot of stress in its own right. And so that’s why I’m here to listen just to see what else we should be doing.”

TeenTalk is used by 17 schools across the county. They are located in Greenwich (5 schools), Ridgefield (3), Norwalk (2), New Cannan (2), Newtown (2), Darien (1), Stamford (1), Westport (1), and Wilton (1).

Last year, they served just under 3,000 students across the county.

The program costs less than $100,000.

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