Joe Carapella: Caring About Clinton
After almost 20 years in Clinton, Joe Carapella found out that it’s never too late to get involved. For the past two years, Joe has been volunteering with the Human Services Department to support the mental health of Clinton residents.
Despite living in Clinton since 2004, Joe realized one day that he never really did much around the town. Working in New York, he was commuting a lot of the time and not really getting to know Clinton. Eventually, his work situation changed so he had more time, and he decided he wanted to get into volunteering.
“I made the decision to be of service in Clinton. I never really spent time in town as silly as that sounds. So, I said where does the town need me?” Joe says.
In 2021, after inquiring within town hall and calling various departments, Joe got a call from the Human Services Department Director David Melillo. “He introduced me to the problem we have here in town and wanted to hit it head-on,” Joe says.
That problem Joe references is one of the top issues facing Clinton: the high rate of suicide in town. In 2017, UConn published a study that named Clinton the leading Connecticut municipality in suicides and suicide attempts that resulted in hospitalization per capita. The study indicated that the town had a rate four times above what was expected for a town of its size. The majority of cases involved young men aged 18 to 24.
Joe has become a volunteer with three of the department’s programs aimed at tackling the issue. One is Clinton Community Conversations — where residents and volunteers get together to talk about the mental health issues in town and try and find ways to support the residents.
A second Joe is involved in is QPR Training, which teaches people in town to recognize the signs of someone who may be suicidal so that they can question, persuade, and refer them to help. The department has been training residents and town employees alike for years in the program and regularly succeeds in new training seminars. Joe is now certified to teach others how to do QPR.
“We’re committed to having everyone in town trained,” Joe says. He adds that anyone interested in taking a class can contact the Human Services Department. The department will keep the names of those interested and will set up a class once there is enough interest. Joe also says the department periodically schedules new classes.
While no classes are currently scheduled, Joe invites those interested in learning the program to email email@example.com.
Another program Joe is involved in is the men’s group that meets at 7 p.m. on the last Wednesday of each month at the First Church of Christ Congregational Church at 55 Church Road, Clinton.
“It’s a grassroots program we started once we recognized the need,” Joe says.
He points out that there isn’t always a lot of attention paid to men’s mental health struggles, despite studies showing that most men die by suicide the most.
“It’s not very easy for us to ask for help,” he says.
Joe notes that some people have reservations about seeing a psychologist in a formal setting. The men’s group is not that, he explains.
“It’s peer-to-peer support. We’re not professionals or counselors.” Joe says some people come just to listen and support others, while others come to talk.
“There’s no judgment, and what’s said there is kept confidential,” he says.
Volunteering is something that Joe says he’s always dabbled in, but lately, he’s gotten more involved.
“I’ve always done it, but usually it was something I was asked to do. For me, it’s about the community and pitching in where I can,” Joe says.
He says that in the nearly two years he’s been a volunteer, his favorite part has been getting to know more people in the community.
“I like making connections in the community and finding out how important community is to Clinton,” Joe says. “I like seeing how much people want to help and want to get involved. I think it’s certainly fulfilling,”
Beyond the Human Services Department, Joe is also a volunteer with the Lions Club. He joined the Clinton Lions Club this year after having previously worked with the Old Saybrook Club.
“It’s really been great,” Joe says.
For his career, Joe works in mergers and acquisitions. He explains that when one company buys another and it’s time to introduce the new company to a new culture or policies, he works to make the transition smooth. These are qualities Joe says have helped him in his volunteer efforts.
Joe grew up in New York but has lived in Clinton since 2004.
“An opportunity to move to Connecticut came up, and it looked like a nice town, and we had the chance to explore there, so we moved,” Joe says, adding that the shoreline location was a draw.
In his spare time, Joe can be found outdoors hiking, biking, or swimming.
Asked his favorite part about Clinton, Joe replies, “The energy from the people and from the town. I love the authenticity of the people here.”