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Connecticut mental health treatment center takes different approach in helping teens

BETHLEHEM -- Newport Academy is a teen treatment center in Bethlehem, addressing mental health issues, eating disorders and substance abuse. The center combines traditional clinical therapy with experiential therapy, exposing teens to things like yoga and hiking in the Litchfield Hills.

Among its past clients is an 18-year-old girl from New Jersey named Sierra, who came to Newport Academy with a troubled past. As a child, Sienna was depressed and anxious. She began self harming in 8th grade, before turning to binge drinking and abusing Xanax in high school.

"Once I took the first drink, it was like all the anxiety and the depression and my fears just kind of washed away," said Sienna.

Sienna spent time in and out of psych wards and emergency rooms, until her parents brought her to Newport Academy. There, Sienna reconnected with nature as she recovered.

"I learned here that you can feel good by doing physical activity," she said.

Newport Director Tim Walsh said their philosophy helps teens reconnect with themselves and the world around them.

"We emphasize a lot of the body-mind connection," said Walsh. "We emphasize a lot of the community connection, that they're not alone. They're not in this by themselves."

Walsh encourages parents to be as involved in their teens' lives as possible.

"Ask questions that aren't probing so much as generalized in the sense of, I'm getting to know my emerging adult child," he said.

Sienna has since completed her treatment program at Newport and is back with her family in New Jersey, where she now has hopes of going to Rutgers.

"There's a little voice in my head that just maybe, I'm capable of something greater," she said.

Newport Academy offers residential, outpatient and day school options at locations in both Connecticut and California.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 20 percent of teens ages 13-18 live with a mental health condition. 50 percent of all lifetime cases of mental illness begin by age 14, 75 percent of them begin by age 24.

If you or someone you know is considering harming themselves, you can reach the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or suicidepreventionlifeline.org. The Crisis text-line is also available by texting 741741.