To the Editor:

I applaud the work of The Community Fund of Darien’s Thriving Youth Task Force as it launches its campaign “Our Darien,” which is aimed at addressing teen binge drinking. The Thriving Youth Task Force is helping to increase our understanding of teens’ and parents’ beliefs and behavior regarding alcohol use and binge drinking.

At the Child Guidance Center of Southern Connecticut, where we provide mental health services to more than 3,000 children and teens every year, we are all too aware of the harmful effects of teen drinking. The good news for parents is that research shows they are the strongest influence on their children’s decisions about drinking. Our Darien’s use of social media to disseminate scientific information about teen drinking issues brings it squarely into our daily lives. We urge parents to use this information as a way to begin frank discussions with their children about drinking.

People who begin using addictive substances before age 15 are seven times more likely to develop a substance use problem than those who delay first use until age 21 or older. We know from the work of the Thriving Youth Task Force that the average age Darien children start drinking is 13.7, so there is no time like the present to talk to your children about this critical issue.

Eliot Brenner, president and CEO

Child Guidance Center of Southern Connecticut

To the Editor:

Today, we, the presidents of the Youth Asset Team, are writing to address and provide a teen perspective on the Thriving Youth Task Force’s “Our Darien” campaign.

For those who are unaware with the Youth Asset Team, we are the student branch of the Thriving Youth Task Force, an initiative of The Community Fund of Darien which represents over 50 local organizations that strive to promote positive assets in young people in order to reduce risky behaviors. We are currently collaborating on this nationally-recognized “Our Darien” social marketing campaign, which educates parents and students about the detrimental effects of binge drinking. Some of our ongoing activities include panel participation in presentations for parents of younger students; planning, promoting and executing prevention-related speakers and events; participating in community service; and mentoring to the newly-created middle school branch of the Youth Asset Team.

All of us originally joined the Youth Asset Team because we wanted to make a difference locally by providing a teen perspective on issues affecting our age group. The most pressing issue for some time has been alcohol and drug use among Darien youth. From this issue, the “Our Darien” campaign was born.

The Youth Asset Team served as a focus group as the campaign was being created. What makes this campaign so unique is the way in which it appeals to the viewers. Each image was carefully planned and staged, and each caption crafted in a way that truly speaks to Darien parents and teens alike. In an eye-catching yet informative way, the campaign demands attention; it is almost impossible not to pay attention when these images appear on students’ and parents’ Facebook pages and are seen posted around town.

When providing our opinions on the various “posts,” we focused on what was most compelling for us as teenagers in Darien. Common themes throughout the campaign include sports, academics and friends. The goal was to take a creative approach when addressing this big binge drinking issue. We thought that if the campaign felt personalized and tuned into teen and parent interests, through images and statistics, it would be more effective.

Through the support of the parents and teen residents of Darien, along with other Task Force members and the school system, it is our hope that this collaborative effort will continue to be effective in combatting the binge drinking issue affecting our town.

Emma Dahlquist, Will Harman, Sydney Schrenker and Olivia Taylor

Youth Asset Team co-presidents

To the Editor:

We are writing to support the “Our Darien” Campaign, launched by the Thriving Youth Task Force of The Community Fund of Darien. This campaign focuses on underage drinking and, in particular, how certain attitudes that surround it can be contributing factors.

The people who work at Silver Hill Hospital are passionate about educating the community and engaging in prevention efforts in surrounding towns like Darien. We are proud members of the Thriving Youth Task Force and also provide programs on substance use and mental health in conjunction with the Darien Depot, the Darien YWCA Parent Awareness Program, the Darien Library, and the Darien Health Department. Most recently we have participated in the new Board of Education substance use program at Darien High School. We are honored to partner with these agencies in Darien, a community that clearly cares about its youth.

One particular myth, which the “Our Darien” campaign is working to dispel, is that teens should be taught “responsible drinking.” While parents who try this may be motivated out of a desire to protect kids from excessive or problematic drinking later on, there is much evidence showing that both early drinking and permissiveness from parents leads to trouble. For instance, the earlier kids start drinking, the more likely they are to experience alcohol-related injury and alcohol dependence later in life. It’s important to remember that alcohol affects developing brains differently than adult brains and that kids are extremely responsive to the examples and limits that are set for them.

At Silver Hill Hospital, we provide both mental health and addiction treatment across the lifespan through our inpatient, residential and outpatient services. We see firsthand how so many of the adults who come to us suffering with substance use disorders started drinking and using drugs in high school.

The “Our Darien” campaign will be giving parents and teens the scientific facts needed to make healthy decisions and it will foster the important conversations and dialogue (both in families and in the community) that are, ultimately, the best prevention. We are excited to join with the Darien community to promote the health and well-being of its citizens and are confident that the “Our Darien” campaign is a vital piece of that effort.

Ellen Brezovsky, director of community relations

John Santopietro, president and medical director

Silver Hill Hospital

New Canaan

To the Editor:

In reference to this article in your Nov. 24 paper, Bank of America’s involvement in addressing hunger is noble.

However the statement, “We recognize that food security is a key piece of the puzzle in achieving economic mobility..” basically states that people don’t make enough money to be adequately nourished and therefore struggle to get out of poverty. The battle over raising the minimum wage in Connecticut resulted in the current rate of $10.10 an hour. Compare that to the chairman and CEO of Bank of America Corp, Brian T. Moynihan’s annual salary of $20 million. That’s about $9,600 and change an hour I believe.

Bank of America employees who make far less than this have dedicated time to volunteering to the Connecticut Food Bank. It’s so true “that the underlying causes of food insecurity” must be addressed by first feeding “the line” as these volunteers do, but economic inequality must be addressed to “end the line”. With the current GOP tax cuts, the windfall would make Brian Moynihan even more comfortable and will make little difference to those who must turn to our food banks.

Kathy Lotty

Fairfield

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