BATH — Jamie Dorr was alarmed by the number of young people taking their own lives in the Mid-Coast area.
So she formed a group that would help troubled youth and the adults around them gain the resources and knowledge to prevent such tragedies from occurring.
Dorr, who is president of the Friends of the Bath Youth Meetinghouse & Skatepark, created the organization a year ago.
Its vision, as stated at mcamaine.org: “To be a suicide-free community comprised of invested, empathetic, and responsive members of all ages, demographics & backgrounds; a community that educates and brings awareness to mental health to reduce stigma and increase help-seeking; a community that works hand in hand to provide a safety net to those who are hurting, so they can find hope and healing.”
The alliance seeks to further that objective through a youth mental health training program, geared toward parents of teens and adults who work with teens. The class, to be held Monday, July 17, teaches people how to help teens experiencing mental health or addiction challenges, or are in the midst of a crisis.
The program takes place at the Bath Parks and Recreation Department, 4 Sheridan St., from 8:15 a.m.-5 p.m. Admission is free, although $5 is collected to pay for lunch. Registration is to be done in advance, at midcoasthealth.com/wellness/mental-health.
Those with questions – or who cannot attend the July 17 session and want information on other class dates – can reach Dorr at firstname.lastname@example.org or 443-6856, or Elizabeth Munsey of Mid Coast Hospital at email@example.com or 373-6927.
This sort of program has been held before in the Mid-Coast. Learning of it about a year ago, Dorr participated in a class at City Hall. Other classes have been held in schools in order to engage faculty.
The alliance’s approximately 30 member organizations include the Skatepark, Bath Parks and Recreation and the Bath Area Family YMCA, Regional School Unit 1 and School Administrative District 75, Sweetser, Mid Coast Hospital and Access Health, the Bath Police Department and the Sagadahoc Sheriff’s Department, and Patten Free Library.
“There’s a lot of partnering going together, trying to get people educated to be able to recognize the warning signs,” Dorr said in an interview July 5. “People like me, who don’t have the mental health background, but we do have a lot of connection with teens who may be experiencing a crisis at some point.”
That’s something Dorr has seen in her time with the Skatepark.
“Bath has lost young people to suicide, and really that is where I came from,” she explained. “Losing someone to suicide can be a very helpless sort of feeling, and I thought, ‘Gosh, why do we keep going through this as a community?'”
According to a tally of the past five years taken in February, there were nine suicides in Bath, of which one was a juvenile; five in Topsham, all adults; one adult in Richmond; and three adults and one juvenile in the rest of Sagadahoc County, Dorr said, noting that in many cases, the adults were only 18 or 19.
“A lot of the teens that we’ve lost had a connection with the Bath Youth Meetinghouse & Skatepark, and so I felt responsible for doing all that we could, making sure we’re doing all that we can, to address it and get in front of us,” she added. “So that’s where it began; it was really heartbreak.”
That prompted Dorr to reach out to area organizations to ask, “What are we missing?”
And now, each month she has new people sitting around the table offering their help. One idea born out of the group was to better educate the public to see warning signs in youths.
To “get people trained, as many people as possible, to know what to do,” Dorr said. “Because I think a lot of times surrounding suicide, people are afraid to talk about it.”
But the subject can be discussed in a safe way, she explained, noting “that’s what the youth mental health (program) is trying to do, is make sure people know what to look for, and then know how to respond in a healthy way to get people help.”
Melissa Fochesato, director of Community Health Promotion with Mid Coast Hospital, noted July 5 that the 2015 Maine Integrated Youth Health Survey showed that just 20.6 percent of Sagadahoc County youths who show signs of depression reported getting help from an adult.
“Our goal is to increase the number of adults who recognize when a youth may be feeling sad, helpless or anxious and feel comfortable connecting them to the help they may need,” Fochesato added.