Sue Hanly deals with sick children every day in her role as nurse, but with the help of the internet, she hopes to help a segment of the population often overlooked by much of society.
Thanks to the fundraising efforts of Hanley, the town of Westford is now one of ten communities throughout the Commonwealth participating in Project Interface, a website geared toward providing resources for those with depression and other psychological problems.
Hanly, who also serves as the president of the Westford Youth Basketball Association, hopes this online service provided by the Massachusetts School of Professional Psychology can help children get the mental health services they may not have acquired otherwise.
“Trying to find a counselor is a nightmare, because you have to find a counselor and then there’s the issue of insurance,” Hanly said. “What (Project Interface) does is that they have a database where people can talk to a helpline that will find somebody that will match.”
Since the service began in January of 2011, so far there have been over 150 referrals in Westford’s schools alone.
“People have no idea how prevalent (mental health issues) are,” said Hanly. “Statistically it’s becoming more common, but it’s a mystery to everybody, or there’s a stigma about it, that people see it as a weakness.”
Ultimately the initiative in Westford goes through the town’s board of health, although Hanly notes that has fundraised all the money needed for the project.
Of the ten communities currently being services by Project Interface, four of them (Groton-Dunstable and Chelmsford, Lincoln-Sudbury, Concord) are nearby, something Hanly attributes to the positive results the website has had for children in Westford and the desire for improvement in providing resources other nearby communities want to obtain.
“Of the 4,124 students in Westford, 824 are going to need some help,” she said. “Every school system deals with these stats, and a mentally healthy child is going to be a much healthier child.”
More information on the initiative is available online at the Project Interface website.