Depot health fair teaches dangers of alcohol, drugs, drunk driving, and more

Photo of Sandra Diamond Fox

Sunday’s rain didn’t put a damper on the large turnout at the first ever Community Health Awareness Fair at The Depot, Darien Youth Center.
About 100 people of all ages came to the event, which included 15 education and information tables located both inside and outside of the Depot, at 25 Heights Road.

Admission was free, with an item to donate to the Darien Human Services Household goods closet.
One table was represented by Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD), which operates out of the Depot. SADD helped to organize the entire event.

“We are trying to create an awareness within the community of a lot of the things that are commonly overlooked at our school — whether it’s mental health issues, drug abuse, or domestic violence,” said Sage Gupta, 16, who is co-president of SADD with Caitlin Feeley, 18.

Many of those concerns, “that we see directly within our school [Darien High School] are swept under the rug,” Caitlin said, adding that people are afraid to talk about those topics, or reach out for help.
SADD member Schuyler Coughlin, 17, said “we are trying to raise awareness and educate people on cause and effect — on the idea that everything has a consequence.”
She said that SADD members talk a lot about people who have died from suicide, drug abuse, and rape.
“These are heavy topics. We want to help people be more aware that it does happen, and to help them go out in the world with a knowledgeable sense of how to look out for themselves and others.”

There was also a table for The Rowan Center of Stamford, a sexual assault research agency that works with victims and survivors of sexual violence.
Marie Corriveau, community educator at The Rowan Center in Stamford, said that The Rowan Center does “a lot of prevention education within the community.”
According to Corriveau, one in four women and one in four men will be sexually assaulted at some point in their life.
“Our main goal is through education and awareness, we hope to bring an end to sexual violence,” she added.
Gina Lavorgna, professional relations representative at The Renfrew Center in Greenwich, also had a table at the fair.
The Renfrew Center, which has outpatient sites across the U.S., treats adolescent girls and women with eating disorders.
“We are focused on eating disorders as being a disorder of emotional disconnection,” Lavorgna said.
“Eating disorders are about control,” Lavorgna said. “Some people feel like they have a loss of control.”
If one suspects that a friend or family member has an eating disorder, “tell someone,” Lavorgna said. “Talk to a third party. You need to have a good team.”
She added that many times, those with an eating disorder also have depression, anxiety, and obsessive compulsive disorders.
Representatives from Liberation Programs were also at the fair. Liberation Programs is a behavioral health organization specializing in treatment for substance use disorders including alcohol, opiates, depressants, and stimulants.
Maggie Young, director of Women and Children Services at Liberation Programs, spoke about the dangers of E-cigarettes, vaping, and juuling.

E-cigarettes have transitioned from larger sized cigarettes to “something similar to a thumb drive,” she said.
She added that the original purpose of E-cigarettes was to wean people off cigarettes. Now, however, she said this has transitioned to juuling and is being marketed to young adults. They come in small pods and differently flavored oils.
“One pod is equivalent to a pack of cigarettes,” said Young, adding that between their flavoring, the oils, and their overall “cool, sleek look,” the juul is “the iPhone of E-cigarettes.”
Unlike regular cigarettes, a juul doesn’t have an odor and someone doesn’t have to take it outside to smoke it, she said.
“It’s becoming so convenient for kids to conceal it,” Young added.
“We are hoping to educate parents so kids know where parents stand on it.”

Helping Hands, a nonprofit organization run through the Depot, was giving out information as well. Helping Hands collects items that food stamps don’t pay for, such as toothpaste, soap, shampoo, laundry detergent, and dishwashing liquid.
“We collect the items once a month through the Depot and at grocery stores in town such as Stop & Shop and Palmer’s,” said Andrew Popson, 15, who is president of Helping Hands.
Shoppers would buy these items and then place them in a basket at a Helping Hands table on their way out of the store. The items are brought to the Human Services household closet at Darien Town Hall, where they’re distributed to those in need.
First Selectman Jayme Stevenson, who was also at the fair, said she’s “very grateful to the Depot and to the kids and the police association and all of our first responders, fire, and EMT for being at the event, to show families all of the resources that they have at their fingertips right here in Darien when it comes to any issues that they might have regarding substance abuse or difficult decisions that anyone in their family might be struggling with.”
She added that it’s “fabulous to be here at the Depot. The Depot really is the epicenter of teaching kids about healthy living and healthy behaviors.”

The next Community Health Awareness Fair is at Hindley Elementary School on Oct. 5.