To the Editor:
I am the girls varsity coach at Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School. I am also one of MVRHS’s school adjustment counselors. I am the president of Martha’s Vineyard United, our local youth soccer organization, as well as a coach with MV United. I am a licensed mental health counselor, and my most important role is being the father of two teenage girls who play soccer, basketball, and hockey.
I recognize sports are undoubtedly important to people. I recognize that environmental issues are undoubtedly important to people. I understand Mr. Hopkins is narrowing the view, limiting it solely to water resource protection districts, but if you are a member of the Martha’s Vineyard community, you cannot ignore what I am about to tell you. Mr. Hopkins is playing politics and allowing personal friendships to infiltrate this debate. It is really unfortunate that in this last hour, such desperate measures have been taken. This plan needs to be approved.
I’ve learned through this process that PFAS generates a yearlong debate, from which during this time I learned that PFAS is ubiquitous. We have had 100 teens between the ages of 14 and 18 admitted to the urgent care department for things like non-suicidal self-injury, suicidal ideation or intent, mania, or psychosis the past year and a half. A quarter of them were admitted to an off-Island hospital or treatment center. These kids were removed from their community, their families, their friends. Just this school year we have sent over a dozen, and three of them acute.
I admit I am envious this athletic field has received the attention, money, time, debate, and media attention that it has. I am frustrated as well that it has not been built yet. I am envious because my colleagues in the mental health and counseling field who have spent hours, lifetimes actually, fretting about respite and foster care on Martha’s Vineyard, my colleagues who have spent lifetimes fretting about the lack of mental health and substance use disorder resources for our kids and teens, these same colleagues who fret about day programs and intensive outpatient or partial hospitalization programs for our kids and teens, who are admitted to facilities away from their Island community.
What I know to be true, in regard to alleviating mental health and substance use issues, are community-based enrichment activities, positive role models (like coaches and teammates), having at least one positive adult in his, her, or their life. Exercise is one of the best known remedies and treatment protocols for mood disorders, substance use disorders, and anxiety. A sense of pride in oneself and community, motivation, and a sense of belonging are part and parcel of the cure of mental illness and substance use, especially for those thinking about suicide. The kind of environment MVRHS is trying to create with this new athletic complex is one that the entire Island community would most definitely benefit from.
I want to say kudos to the Field Fund for helping highlight how this synthetic turf field could be built, and be a model for every synthetic turf field built around the globe. A person referenced a quote by Robert Swan: “The greatest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it.” Are the Field Fund and its supporters trying to save the planet, or just M.V.? I believe Swan’s quote to be applicable here, but the problem with Ms. Look’s and the Field Fund’s mission is that it is based on abstinence. I do not believe this to be the cure to this issue, and in fact, M.V. has an opportunity to lead. On our planet, synthetic turf fields are not going anywhere, they too are ubiquitous. But this turf field, this one presented here today, is not the fear-mongering, demonized turf field that has been hyperbolized by some of our most fundamental environmentalists. M.V. could have an environmentally friendly synthetic turf field that models how all turf fields are to be built on this planet.