On Sept. 11, more than 60 people gathered to talk openly about mental illness, substance abuse, and suicide at the old town hall at Boothbay Railway Village in Boothbay. This powerful Three Stories of Hope and Resiliency event was brought to the community by a group of local church leaders and health and social service professionals who came together over the summer under the leadership of Sarah Foulger from the Congregational Church of Boothbay Harbor. They were compelled to take some specific action after a significant number of losses by suicide in the last 18 months in the area. The group believed awareness needed to be raised around the prevalence of mental illness and substance abuse in the community. They look to reduce stigma and encourage individuals and families to seek help.
The event was the first-ever National Alliance on Mental Illness speakers bureau held in Lincoln County. The speakers-bureau program consists of a panel of speakers from around Maine who are survivors of suicide loss, attempt survivors, or individuals living with a mental illness and/or those family members who care about them. They believe that by sharing their own lived experience they can break down the stigma surrounding mental illness and suicide, send a message of hope and resiliency, and show living proof that mental wellness is not only possible but thriving.
In addition to the panel of lived-experience guest speakers, there were booths of information that represented local resources from Sweetser’s Crisis Services, Maine Behavioral Health, the Family Care Center in Boothbay Harbor, and NAMI Maine. There were opportunities to ask questions of the panel and for the audience to participate by sharing their own stories and ideas about what is needed in the community in terms of resources and solutions.
The event’s organizing group has worked with NAMI Maine to co-host two additional training opportunities in the Boothbay region in the month of November as follow up to the speakers bureau. The trainings are open to anyone who is looking to learn more — no prior professional experience is necessary:
· Adult mental-health first-aid training: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday, Nov. 14 at the Family Care Center, 19 St. Andrews Lane, Boothbay Harbor. Register online at namimaine.org/event/mhfa-bbh111416
· Suicide-prevention gatekeeper training: 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 19 at the Rotary Club of Boothbay Harbor, 66 Montgomery Road, Boothbay Harbor. Register online at namimaine.org/event/boothbayharborgk
A local Facebook page has also been created called Beacons of Hope in the Boothbay region, where one can find informative articles, resources, messages of hope, and a calendar of community events. The planning group will continue to meet and look to build a coalition of community members to focus on mental-health and substance-abuse issues. The next meeting will be from 8-9 a.m., Wednesday, Oct. 19 at the Congregational Church of Boothbay Harbor, 125 Townsend Ave., Boothbay Harbor. For more information, contact Anni Pat McKenney at 633-1542 or Sarah Foulger at 633-4757.