BAR HARBOR—As the winter season continues, the Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) reminds Maine people that mental health resources are available to help during times of stress and uncertainty, including through the StrengthenME initiative and traditional crisis support.
Some of the signs that your mental health may need attention and care include irritability, nervousness, changes in appetite, fatigue and difficulty sleeping or concentrating. More serious warning signs may include a sense of hopelessness, withdrawing from loved ones, substance misuse, self-harm and feelings, thoughts or actions of suicide.
In October, Maine DHHS announced the launch of StrengthenME, an initiative to help Maine people cope with the stress and uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic by providing free tools, support and community connections that promote wellness, resilience and recovery. Supported by nearly $5 million in federal funding, the StrengthenME coalition has already provided help through over 23,000 contacts with Maine people. StrengthenME resources can help people develop coping strategies and self–care practices before emotional challenges escalate into more serious mental health problems.
If you or someone you know is looking for support, call StrengthenME at (207) 221-8198, seven days a week, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. StrengthenME is free, confidential, anonymous and available to anyone in Maine. This line will also connect callers who are health care workers, first responders and school staff to the FrontLine WarmLine, a dedicated phone support service for these groups.
For people who are feeling overwhelmed by depression or anxiety, crisis support is available. Seek help immediately if you or someone you know is talking about suicide, feelings of hopelessness or unbearable pain, or about being a burden to others.
If you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health crisis, call or text the Statewide Crisis Line at (888) 568-1112, seven days a week, 24 hours a day. This line is free and confidential and staffed by trained crisis clinicians who can connect you to the closest crisis center.
While there’s no indication of an increase in suicide rates in Maine in 2020 compared to 2019, the volume of calls to the Statewide Crisis Line has increased. This higher call volume suggests not only that people are feeling distress but also that they are reaching out to seek help.
In addition to StrengthenME, Maine DHHS has launched the OPTIONS (Overdose Prevention Through Intensive Outreach, Naloxone and Safety) initiative to combat the rise in fatal drug overdoses exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Under the initiative, mobile response teams in every Maine county engage with communities that have high rates of drug overdoses to promote drug prevention and harm reduction strategies, connect people directly to recovery services and treatment, and distribute naloxone, the lifesaving overdose medication.
This latest effort in the Mills Administration’s response to the opioid epidemic, supported by $2.5 million in existing federal funds, comes as fatal drug overdoses are rising nationally. Fatal overdoses in Maine began to rise prior to COVID-19, but they have been exacerbated by the pandemic, which is making it more challenging to connect people with treatment and recovery resources.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the administration has also authorized recovery service providers to utilize telehealth services, increased flexibility for take-home doses of the opioid treatment methadone and provided flexibility to needle exchange programs.