StrengthenME and crisis support available to help cope with stress and uncertainty

Maine DHHS encourages Mainers to take advantage of mental health resources during holiday season

Wed, 12/22/2021 - 4:00pm

As the winter holiday season continues, and in the face of ongoing challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) reminds all Maine people, and particularly those who work in and provide support to 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 an increase in stress, depression, and other behavioral health challenges. This year, the presence of new COVID-19 virus variants and other pressures have also created an unprecedented strain on the state’s health care resources and workforce.

Some of the signs that you may be experiencing “burnout” 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: a sense of hopelessness, withdrawing from loved ones, substance misuse, self-harm, and feelings, thoughts, or actions of suicide.

"While the holiday season can be a time of joy for many, it's also normal to feel distress and mixed emotions during 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 news release. "If you or someone you know needs help, a variety of resources are available: Online, over the phone, and in person."

"Doing the right thing to limit exposure and avoid spreading COVID-19 can be hard, especially at this time of uncertainty when many are experiencing ‘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 distance to protect our physical health, it’s also crucial to tend to our mental health."

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 services.

StrengthenME is 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. 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, or visit StrengthenME.comStrengthenME is free, confidential, anonymous, and available to anyone in Maine.

StrengthenME also supports the State of Maine and Work Force Employee Assistance Program (EAP) that specifically serves health care and frontline workers, providing wellness workshops, peer connection groups, free confidential coaching sessions and more. It also operates the FrontLine WarmLine, a dedicated phone support service for health care workers, first responders, and school staff.

  • If you or someone you know is a health care worker, first responder or school staff, call the FrontLine WarmLine at (207) 221-8196 seven days a week, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Since launching in October 2020, the StrengthenME coalition has provided help through over 60,000 contacts with Maine people. As part of the initiative, StrengthenME also provides information and support resources through social media, including recently released PSAs on normalizing stress and maintaining a mental health wellness toolkit.

In addition to StrengthenME, Maine DHHS has expanded the OPTIONS (Overdose Prevention Through Intensive Outreach, Naloxone and Safety) initiative, which is now available in all 16 counties statewide, to combat the rise in fatal drug overdoses exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Under the initiative, mobile response teams 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.

Behavioral health resources can also be accessed through Maine's 211 service: Dial 211, text your zip code to 898-211, email, or visit