HARTFORD — A group of mental health advocates Wednesday launched a new website aimed at providing and coordinating resources for young adults suffering from mental wellness issues.
TurningPointCT.org was created particularly for the 18-to-25 age group and their loved ones to provide resources for people dealing with stress, depression, eating disorders, binge drinking, drug use and bullying. The project, which began in January 2013, is managed by the Southwest Regional Mental Health Board and funded through the state Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services.
Project coordinators hosted a launch party Wednesday at Real Art Ways in Hartford, where a panel of advocates, who have suffered with some of these problems, gathered to tell their stories and spread the word about the new website.
Panelist Vered Brandman, 27, said the project "gives meaning to 10 years of silent suffering and seven years of trying to find my way through a really disjointed system."
Brandman was a member of the first focus group of college students who helped come up with the idea for the website. She served as project coordinator for its development phase and said she hopes it will serve as a precedent for other states to create these sort of websites — a "young adult-driven, young adult-run resource for young people who are looking for this."
"A lot of the content we have is relevant across state lines, but some of the most useful is not, and we want other states to take this as an example of what they can do with the support and involvement of young people to have it be relevant to how their state systems work and how services are accessed there," Brandman said.
She said she spent her teenage years suffering from depression and anxiety and eventually was hospitalized for treatment. Now, she's in recovery, has graduated from community college and works a full-time job. Her story, along with several others, is detailed on the website. The website also features a Q&A guide to help people find and access services, and give them an idea what to expect.
A forum section on the site allows peers to ask each other for help and advice — and coordinators on Wednesday urged members of the audience to participate in the forums and tell their friends about the site so they could reach "critical mass of talking to people."
The website is targeted at young adults, particularly those who have not yet sought help and are looking for treatment options.
"My one hope in all of this is that this conversation keeps happening," said DMHAS Commissioner Patricia Rehmer, who attended the launch party Wednesday. "Young adults need this, their parents need it, people who are later in life and struggling with discrimination need it — as long as we can keep the conversation going, as long as people are willing to be out there, that's what we need."
Rehmer said initial funding for the project was about $200,000, with an additional amount appropriated annually. TurningPointCT's executive director is Margaret Watts, who is director of some of the DMHAS regional health boards, Rehmer said.
"There had been a lot of discussion with some of the advocates about the desire to do this, so when we had the money, honestly it just seemed like a perfect opportunity to give it to them," Rehmer said. "They took it and just ran with it."