Meeting the Mental Health Needs of Southington Residents
June 2023 - Published in: 2022 Annual Report - With a sharp rise in depression and anxiety among families throughout the ongoing pandemic, the UConn Health Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Outpatient Clinic received triple the standard amount of calls from parents requesting therapy appointments for their children. Between school closures, remote education and health care, and long delays for mental health services, there are fewer chances to identify children and families who may be in need of help, let alone the opportunities to actually address these needs.
In response to this need, David FitzGerald, Ph.D., assistant professor and Director of the Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Outpatient Clinic, designed a new program to meet the needs of parents and children experiencing elevated feelings of stress, anger, sadness, and anxiety. The Child & Family Development Program, offers several parent groups that each focus on a different goal for the parents, including ones that help parents manage child behavior problems, groups that improve parent-child emotion connections, and support groups for parents of children with neurodevelopmental disorders, especially Autistic Spectrum Disorder. The program also offers free educational resources for parents to better inform themselves when it comes to behavioral issues and how to manage stress in themselves and their children.
In the future, this program will also expand its services. Currently, the program staff is working with school administrators to develop trainings and resources for school personnel in Southington in order to better support the mental health of students. The program will also be adding youth support groups. Much like the parent support groups, the youth support groups would provide a space for youth to connect with their peers and learn ways of dealing with feelings of anxiety or depression.
This innovative pilot program was funded with a $150,000 proactive grant by the Bradley Henry Barnes and Leila Upson Barnes Memorial Trust at MSCF.