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Sagadahoc County, ME: Growing number of young people with mental health problems

Nov 5, 2018, Brunswick (ME) Times Record: Youth mental health remains a concern in Sagadahoc County A new health survey of Sagadahoc County shows that despite gains, youth mental health remains an issue in the area. “Overall, if you look at the county’s health index, we are often one of the healthiest counties in the state, but our youth mental health rates are some of the unhealthiest in the state,” said Director of Community Health Promotion at Mid Coast Hospital Melissa Fochesato. … For data on youth mental health, the Sagadahoc County Health Profile draws from the Maine Integrated Youth Health Survey, a survey of Maine students conducted every two years. The 2017 data shows 30.2 percent of Sagadahoc County high school students felt sad or hopeless for two weeks in a row, which is about 3 percent higher than the statewide average. 17.6 percent seriously considered suicide, compared to the statewide average of 14.7 percent. … “Three years ago, I would argue one of the areas that have seen a lot of focus is youth mental health,” said Fochesato. “Three years ago, we said as a community that we need to put some extra focus on this. So Mid Coast Hospital got a Youth Mental Health First Aid Training grant to help adults in our region recognize signs and symptoms.” In addition to those training, Mid Coast Hospital has been working closely with the Midcoast Community Alliance, a nonprofit group that originated two years ago in response to a youth suicide in the community. While the organization’s original mission was to make Bath a suicide-free community, it has since broadened its horizons to tackle mental health awareness as a whole. … Since 2015, the number of Sagadahoc County youth who reported seeking help from an adult when experiencing signs of depression increased from 21 percent to 29 percent. And now 59 percent of area youth believe they matter to the community, compared to just 49 percent in 2015. Those numbers show a small but marked change in youth mental health in Sagadahoc County. It can take a long time to move the needle on health factors, noted Fochesato, but the results so far are promising. …

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