To the Editor:

In November 2014, the Community Fund administered a survey of Darien Public School’s seventh-12th graders, to quantify and identify a set of skills, experiences, relationships, and behaviors that enable young people to develop into successful and contributing adults.

It is called The Resources and Asset survey, designed by the Search Institute. To date, more than 600,000 young people between the ages of 8 and 18 have taken the survey, making it one of the most used instruments in the world for measuring the internal strengths and external supports that influence a youth’s success in school, and in life.

The survey had also been administered in Darien twice before, in 2008 and in 2011.

Each survey revealed a disturbing trend in Darien — that substance abuse was on the rise among teens and resilience and resistance skills were declining instead of improving. This should give all of us serious pause.

The urgency and challenge of this problem cannot be postponed, nor be denied, since avoidance only exacerbates it. The challenge is not the primary responsibility of school teachers or community organizations to understand and address. Nor is it for our politicians or religious institutions to figure out or resolve either. The challenge, frankly, is to ourselves — you, me, and every parent in Darien.

Fortunately, there are a few who are earnestly willing to examine and address this problem without prejudice. We applaud the Community Fund of Darien, and the Thriving Youth Task Force who have dedicated resources to engage all of us in a community-wide, long-term plan to promote positive youth development and mental health. Their aim is simple: give parents and teens the information they need to make an informed decision about their family’s values, and help them make intelligent, healthy decisions with regards to substance abuse.

This is our problem, our responsibility. If we truly understand the problem, if we give our hearts and minds to it, then together, we can find a solution.

Pat Morrissey

Darien

Editor’s note: Pat Morrissey is the executive director of the Darien YMCA.