As a Greenwich psychiatrist, I have worked with teens and young adults and their families over many decades. We live in a town that prides itself on financial achievements and family accomplishments.
What does it mean to be a teenager in Fairfield County in 2022? Our children feel pressure to take five APs, get a perfect GPA, get into the top schools, and be the best.
Teens and young adults struggle with stress and anxiety, but they don't want to talk about it. They're looking for a release, an escape, which is why many teens turn to drugs and alcohol. The story isn't new, but in 2022 fentanyl overdoses raised the stakes to life or death.
Let me introduce you to Dashiell Ross, who grew up in Greenwich and is now in high school in Darien. Dashiell's substance misuse nearly cost him his life, and he is now substance-free. What makes Dashiell's story different than many you've heard about is Generation S.O.S.
I discovered Generation S.O.S. and the work they were doing last year. I knew that if Dashiell would agree to speak about his substance misuse to a group of teens, friends and family, the healing benefits for him and insights for the teen community would be invaluable.
And that's what happened one weekend a few months ago. Dashiell found the courage to speak about his journey. The conversation was authentic and raw and a wake-up call for everyone in the room. To friends who tried to save his life, Dashiell told them what he wished they would do instead of seeking drugs: that they would seek help.
He recalled saying, “Couldn't you let me get high just a few more times and then die?” And then, Dashiell found the inner strength to apologize to his friends and family in front of everyone at the meeting.
Dashiell said: “I have experienced drug addiction first-hand. I was using THC cartridges every day because they are odorless. My parents were not aware of how often and how much I was using. The THC made me apathetic toward school and even things that I used to love to do, such as sports. The problem got out of hand quickly. I was drinking and smoking so often that they had lost their potency and I began to experiment with other drugs. The problem isn't social drinking and smoking; it is when someone becomes so reliant on drugs and alcohol that they feel the need to use alone just to get through the day.”
“I feel that Greenwich is especially affected by drug abuse because of the access to money in this town,” Dashiell explained. “It is easier for a kid to get into trouble with drugs when they can afford to use frequently. Kids who have access to money are able to experiment with more expensive drugs such as cocaine and prescription pills.
“As I realized I could reach other teens and share my story without stigma or judgment, I was transformed from a teen who was broken to an empowered young man who could become a leader in the fight against substance misuse.
“I'd like to set up a discussion with teenagers who are struggling with substance abuse or mental health. Drug abuse is very unique in that those who suffer from it don't feel safe being honest about the issue for fear that they might get into trouble. I think that an open discussion among teenagers about the issue could really open some people's eyes and make people realize that they don't struggle alone. I think that it is important for kids to know that there is a way out, no matter how hopeless it feels.”
Generation S.O.S. will host an event in Greenwich May 15 that is open to the public. To set up a discussion, Dashiell encourages any teenagers or parents to contact me at https://johntamerinmd.com/ or Jim Hood, CEO of Generation S.O.S., at email@example.com.
For more information on Generation S.O.S.'s upcoming Greenwich event, visit generationsos.org
Dr. John S. Tamerin lives and practices psychiatry in Greenwich. He is a clinical associate professor of psychiatry at the Cornell/Weill School of Medicine. Dashiell Ross can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.