Maine DHHS encourages Mainers to take advantage of mental health resources this holiday season
As the winter holiday season continues and in the face of the ongoing challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) reminds all Maine residents, and especially to those who work in and support Maine’s health care sector, that mental health resources are available, including through the StrengthenME initiative and traditional crisis support.
The demands of the holiday season can often lead to increased stress, depression, and other behavioral health issues. This year, the presence of new variants of the COVID-19 virus and other pressures have also created unprecedented pressure on the state’s health care resources and workforce.
Some of the signs that you may be suffering from exhaustion or other stressors and 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: feelings of hopelessness, withdrawal from loved ones, substance abuse, self-harm, and suicidal feelings, thoughts, or actions.
“While the holiday season can be a time of joy for many, it’s also normal to feel distress and mixed emotions at this time of year, especially with the new and ongoing challenges posed by the pandemic.” said Dr. Jessica Pollard, director of the Maine DHHS Office of Behavioral Health and a licensed psychologist, in a press release. “If you or someone you know needs help, a variety of resources are available: online, by phone, and in person.”
“Doing the right thing to limit exposure and avoid spreading COVID-19 can be difficult, especially in this time of uncertainty when many are suffering from ‘pandemic fatigue’,” said Dr. Nirav D. Shah, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control. and Prevention. “While it’s more important than ever to get vaccinated, wear a mask in public places and keep your distance to protect our physical health, it’s also crucial to take care of our mental health.”
For people who feel 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 being a burden to others.
- If you or someone you know is having a mental health crisis, call or text the state Crisis Line at 888-568-1112, seven days a week, 24 hours a day. This line is free and confidential and is staffed by trained emergency clinicians who can put you in touch with the nearest emergency services.
StrengthenME is an initiative to help people in Maine 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. StrengthenME resources can help people develop coping strategies and self-care practices before emotional challenges escalate into more serious mental health issues.
- If you or someone you know is looking for help, call StrengthenME at (207) 221-8198, seven days a week, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., or visit StrengthenME.com. StrengthenME is free, confidential, anonymous, and available to anyone in Maine.
StrengthenME also supports the Maine State Employee Assistance Program and Workforce (EAP) which specifically serves healthcare and frontline workers, offering wellness workshops, groups peer-to-peer connection, free confidential coaching sessions and more. It also operates the FrontLine WarmLine, a dedicated hotline for healthcare workers, first responders and school staff.
- If you or someone you know is a healthcare worker, first responder, or school staff, call the WarmLine FrontLine at (207) 221-8196 seven days a week, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Since launching in October 2020, the StrengthenME Coalition has provided assistance through more than 60,000 contacts with Maine residents. As part of the initiative, StrengthenME also provides information and support resources via social networksincluding recently published public service announcements on normalize stress and maintaining a mental health wellness toolkit.
In addition to StrengthenME, Maine’s DHHS has expanded the OPTIONS (Overdose Prevention Through Intensive Outreach, Naloxone and Safety) initiative, which is now available in all 16 counties in the state, to address the rise in fatal overdoses of drugs exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Under this initiative, mobile response teams engage with communities experiencing high rates of drug overdoses to promote substance abuse prevention and harm reduction strategies, connect people directly to recovery and treatment, and distributing naloxone, the overdose life-saving drug.
Behavioral health resources can also be accessed through Maine’s 211 service: dial 211, text your zip code to 898-211, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit 211maine.org.