First Selectman Jayme Stevenson enlists local specialists to offer support for mental health
and well-being during the pandemic

Story by Lesley Osborn

The pandemic has had a significant impact on many people’s health, particularly in our area. While there has been tremendous energy poured into testing, treating and saving lives, there has been less focus on the mental impact of the isolation and anxiety associated with this crisis.

These concerns compelled Darien First Selectman Jayme Stevenson to enlist the support of wellness and spiritual leaders from our community to offer inspirational messages and supportive strategies for coping during these uncertain times.

Stevenson shared: “The ongoing COVID-19 crisis is having significantly negative impacts on the mental well-being of our town residents. While virus information is abundant, I saw a lack of support information for folks struggling socially and emotionally. I contacted my colleagues, Ingrid Gillespie, Director of Communities 4 Action and Maud Purcell, Founder and Executive Director of The Life Solution Center who agreed to help organize the participation of other non-profit and private service providers. The response was immediate and very positive about the project. As of today, we have 14 videos available on the Town of Darien’s TV79 on-demand platform. Our presenters provide useful coping strategies to a wide range of demographic groups. Additional resources for those in need are provided at the end of each video and on the Town of Darien website.” She continued: “The project wouldn’t have been possible without the outreach and technical assistance of The Darien Foundation and our local government access channel volunteers. A true community-wide collaboration!”

The series of 14 videos, featuring healthcare experts, clergy members, doctors and others covers a range of topics, ranging from ‘what to say to your children about the coronavirus’ to ‘transforming obstacles into opportunity’ to ‘learning to thrive at home for teens and college students.’

Reverend Gary Morello, is featured in one video entitled ‘REAL Relationships.’ He shares: “I was so pleased to be part of this virtual effort to help people. Right now, in this unprecedented time, we are being told it’s harmful to be together; isolation is caring. This is the opposite of what we have always learned. As we all live in close quarters, having a positive mental state is built upon not being right and holding grudges, but listening and showing effort. This is hard for a high-achieving place like our town, but being broken together is how we will get through this.”

Sean Calvillo, technology / finance expert and Board Chairman of The Darien Foundation Tech Committee was instrumental in the initiative and helped aggregate the videos for editing. He said: “The combination of a government figure, a public TV station and two non-profits was a bit random — and that helped make it great. We all felt like one team, working with some urgency toward a common cause and just got it done.”

The timing was tight – the idea originated just prior to Good Friday and the combination-production team of volunteers rushed to have Rabbi Cohen’s message, in particular, prepared in time for Passover.

TV79 Program Director Jim Cameron added, “Darien TV79 is pleased to help in this important information-delivery project. We have posted all of the videos on our Vimeo channel in a special folder for on-demand viewing. We will also be airing these shows on-air on cable channel 79 for our viewers. We are also distributing the videos to all the educational and government channels in Fairfield Country so they can air them, as well.” He continued: “While we continue our regular programming of Town government meetings, these coping tips will be a welcome source of credible information we can all use to get through this crisis.”

The videos are now available for viewing on demand at Darien TV79’s Vimeo page at: https://vimeo.com/user36218936 and Stevenson is also highlighting them in her social media feeds. Members of the public are welcome to view, and are encouraged to share these videos, as well.

Videos Topics include:

-“What to Say to Your Children About the Coronavirus,” Steven Boksenbaum, Ph.D., licensed clinical psychologist

-“The Secret of the Light-Transforming Obstacles into Opportunity,” Rabbi Daniel Cohen, Senior Rabbi, Congregation Agudath, Sholom

-“Family Mental Health FAQs” Maud Purcell, MSW, LCSW, CEAP

-“Learning to Thrive at Home for Teens and College Students” Matthew Love, Psy.D.

“Considerations for Healthcare Professionals & Caregivers” and “Maximizing Coping Strategies for Seniors During the 2020 Pandemic,” Stephanie Paulmeno, president, Connecticut Nurses Association

– “Family Mental Health FAQs,” Maud Purcell, MSW, LCSW, CEAP

-“REAL Relationships,” Rev. Gary M. Morello

-“Gateway to Mental Health Services,” Kim O’Rielly, Young Adult Resource Manager, RTOR.org

-“Tips to Get Through COVID for Adults and Couples,” Lisa Gardner, MSW, LCSW

-“Isolation and Supports During the Coronavirus,” John Hamilton, President & CEO of Liberation Programs

-“What to do When we Reach our Limits,” Father Chris Perrella, St. John Church

-“’Family Centers’ Family Quarantine Stress Busters,” Chelsea McGee, Family Centers, Center for Hope

-“Tips for Parenting Children Ages 0-5 During COVID 19,” Barbara McLaughlin, Manager of Early Childhood and Volunteers, Kids in Crisis

-“Supporting Your Toddler and Preschooler During Covid-19 – in Spanish,Georgette Harrison, LPC, Director of Clinical and Community Partnerships, Child Guidance Center of Southern CT

This series of PSA wellness videos was produced via a collaboration between DAF Media, The Darien Foundation, and Darien TV79.

About The Darien Foundation
The Darien Foundation is an independent, community-based, 501(c)(3) public charity. Since 1998, The Darien Foundation has funded $4.5 million in grants for technology and capital initiatives, which create opportunity for Darien’s youth, support our town’s safety and security services, and enhance the overall quality of life in Darien. Our volunteer Board of Directors, who reflect the many constituencies of Darien, thoroughly evaluate grant requests, and assists grant recipients in achieving their goals. Public donations are directed to supporting grants awarded by The Darien Foundation, as all operating costs have been funded by Board member and Officer contributions. Most recently, The Darien Foundation has awarded grants to The Darien Nature Center, DAF Media, The Depot, The Mather Homestead, and Person-to-Person.

For more information about The Darien Foundation, visit darienfoundation.org

Facebook: @darienfoundation
Instagram: @thedarienfoundation
Twitter: @DarienFDN

About Darien Athletic Foundation
The mission of the Darien Athletic Foundation (​www.darienaf.com​), established in 2012, is to celebrate and support all youth and high school athletics of Darien. The DAF designed and funded the most recent renovations of the athletic fields at Darien High School, which are used by both youth and high school sports. The renovations included making several fields into all-weather multi-purpose fields, a new multimedia

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