Ten Minutes with: Colleen Fawcett
Colleen Fawcett talks about being a youth counselor and more.
Photo by Peggy Garbus
Colleen Fawcett grew up a free-range child. The family ping-ponged around the country, eventually landing in Darien. After getting her degree in psychology from the University of Rhode Island followed by an MSW from Columbia, Fawcett became coordinator of youth services for the Town of Wilton, where she has worked for more than two decades. She lives in Georgetown with her husband, Scott, and sons, Gavin and Benjamin.
What do you do as coordinator of youth services?
I work with Margaret Creeth and together we address the social and emotional needs of Wilton youth and their families. We connect people with resources, and in some cases provide short-term counseling services no matter what the socio-economic status.
What issues do teens seek help for?
Pressures related to fitting in, school avoidance, anxiety, depression, isolation, and self-harm. Some kids are trying to manage friendship glitches, gossip, and bullying. Others live in homes where there’s turmoil, untreated mental illness, divorce, or domestic violence. Still others struggle with sleep or nutrition problems. There are children and teens trying to manage learning disabilities, medical issues, trauma, and behavioral problems. There are also unhealthy gaming habits, financial pressures, and issues with self-medicating with illegal substances. The list goes on.
What are key stressors for kids today?
Through technology, our children have access to massive amounts of information. Twenty years ago I wasn’t seeing the high anxiety levels that I see among children today. News coverage 24/7 of mass shootings, natural disasters, and other disturbing and often horrifying events takes a toll on children—and the rest of us. High-school students say things like, “What if we had a shooter in our school?” Elementary-age children ask, “What if we get hit by an earthquake or a tsunami?”
Why is it important to address mental-health needs of teenagers?
Mental health is a critical part of over-all health; it affects how we think, how we feel, and how we act. It’s really about brain health and nothing to be ashamed of.
How do you know if it’s a teenage mood swing or a mental-health problem?
Look for a constellation of signs, not just one or two. Observe the frequency and severity of behaviors. And trust your instincts. If you have that “uh-oh” feeling, don’t ignore it. Ask your child what they’re experiencing; then listen. Validate the feeling and don’t try to fix it. Then reach out for help.
Several years ago we took on the renovation of an historic property called Villa Caroline, a former retreat for artists that had fallen into disrepair. We’ve breathed life back into this special place and it’s become our Shangri-La.
Who do you most admire?
My husband and sons. They live with Marfan syndrome with grace, manage all the aches and pains, and don’t allow it to define them.
What phrase do you overuse?
You know?” My mother-in-law was gracious enough to bring it to my attention.