Author: Danielle Beckwith

If you’ve read my blog on What Is Mental Health Anyway? then you will know that everyone has mental health concerns at time’s throughout their life.  Truly this includes every person, every family, relatives, everyone in school or college, at work and in their home. Everyone! 

Mental Health issues could be due to:

  • a life change
  • losing a job, a home, or not having enough money
  • a death in the family
  • a pet dying
  • being abused
  • having some kind of trauma – including physical injury
  • being diagnosed with a physical illness or mental illness
  • genetics
  • or a host of other reasons.

Why is there a stigma attached to mental health issues and seeking mental health treatment? 

What we learned and incorporated into our “social thinking” from history.

Historical accounts and treatment of mental health, show that people labeled as mentally disturbed were locked up, treated poorly and many even died as a result.

How we were brought up and what our parents or relatives thoughts were on mental health.

Did your family demonstrate understanding, saying “she/he is going through a rough time in their life” or did they use negative labels like “crazy”, “dangerous”, someone to stay away from?

What the community, church or others felt and acted when mental health issues were discussed.

Did people talk about how they were getting help and hoped they would be back soon or was there a silent disapproval, with a “don’t talk about it or that person” implied?

How television, movies and other media portray those with mental illness.

Do the actors portray people with mental health as strong and working through “tough times” or experiencing a “bump in life’s rocky road”? Or does the script show them as sad, someone to feel pity for, angry and abusive, or showing no emotion and doing terrible or horrifying things to others?

Do talk-shows discuss and help those that they interview or do they play “media circus”, putting people with mental health difficulties on stage to entertain the viewers?

The notoriety that is focused on for those, that while a small part of society, do horrific acts.

For instance, school shootings, the “made-famous” psychopaths (ie. Hannibal Lector), mothers who kill their children. Reality is, the vast majority of people with mental health issues are no more likely to be violent than anyone else. Only 3%-5% of violent acts can be attributed to individuals living with a serious mental illness. In fact, people with severe mental illnesses are over 10 times more likely to be victims of violent crime than the general population.

How do we end the Stigma?  How do we change our thoughts about mental illness?

  • Be aware and share positive and helpful stories that counter the negative. Luckily, social media (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and others) has allowed people who are struggling, recovered, or have gotten support to share their information with others. 
  • National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI) advocates for changes to be made that assist rather that stigmatize mental health. Get more information or get involved.  
  • Be a friend. If you know of someone who is experiencing a mental health concern, check in with them, say “hi”, compliment them on something they said or how they look. If possible, be sociable, invite that person out, share a meal, or have a conversation with them.
  • Counter negative comments that you hear. Substitute words or phrases like “we all go through tough times now and then”, “anyone would have a difficult time if …”, “he/she is still a wonderful…” or “I hope I am that strong if ever I get into a similar situation.”
  • Consider writing an editorial with the local paper urging others to be aware of their neighbors needs and help each other during tough times.
  • Overcome your fears and anxieties, know when you need additional help, and make an appointment with a mental health therapist.

Here at Health Affiliates Maine, we truly are concerned for your welfare and the welfare of your family.  We are knowledgeable, highly trained, and really do know a lot about how to help you and your loved ones cope with your emotions and to get the skills to help yourself!

Everyone needs help now and then…Don’t wait. Call today for services. 

 

 

Author: Cynthia Booker-Bingler, LCSW, Health Affiliates Maine

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“The oak fought the wind and was broken,
the willow bent when it must and survived.” 

― Robert JordanThe Fires of Heaven

 

Resilience can be described as the process of returning to normal daily functioning or the ability to adapt after being faced with stress, adversity, trauma or tragedy.   Resilience is not a trait that people either have or do not have.  Resilience involves behaviors, thoughts, and actions that can be learned and developed in anyone.  There is a, however, a road to resilience that most likely involves much emotional pain and sadness.

Stressful life events can have a substantial impact on brain function and structure. 

Just  hours before my 22nd birthday and being 5 months pregnant, my mother’s heart surgeon presents himself to say “your mother will not make it through her open heart surgery”.  My heart fell to the floor as no doctor had ever predicted this outcome.   My mother was just 44 years old.  “My mother will never see my unborn child”.  This was the thought that remained with me and caused so much emotional pain at that moment and for years to come. It is sometimes insurmountable obstacles that unleash the very best of ourselves.

Even after misfortune, resilient people are blessed with such an outlook that they are able to change course and soldier on. 

They are able to rise from the ashes and become stronger than ever.

My first child was born in April of the next year.  My son was born with a very rare condition called CHARGE Syndrome.  CHARGE is a recognizable pattern of birth defects.  My son is deaf, legally blind, intellectually impaired with many sensory deficits.  My dedication to him spans 27 years and has given me a lifetime of resiliency stories.

Throughout my life, I often have had people say to me “how do you do it?”­­­ 

“What makes you get up in the morning?”  So here I present my own thoughts after pondering that very same question, “why do I continue to feel fulfilled and happy when my life has been interwoven with tragedy many times?”

My husband and I went on to have two healthy daughters and also adopted a deaf child, a son from Hangzhou, China in the year 2000.   In 2002, my husband, father to my four children, died in a tragic car accident.  The pain of losing a husband and father, so young, just 42 years old, was another traumatic event to test all of us in resilience.  I remember my youngest daughter, Emily, much more stoic than her older sister, “mommy, why don’t I cry like Charlotte, I miss daddy but I can’t cry like her”.  It is important to remember we all grieve and reveal emotion differently.  I was able to explain this to her in a very simple way, “your emotions are very much like your dads, he liked to work through his problems in his mind and by doing activities that kept him healthy.  Charlotte, she is just like your mom, we cry and show our emotions very easily, this is just the way we were put together on the inside”.

Individual  characteristics…

…such as optimism – along with behaviors;  active coping, and cognitive reappraisal, can build on one’s ability to weather storms of unpredictability.

Optimism is the expectation for good outcomes and has been consistently associated with the employment of active coping strategies, subjective well-being, physical health and larger and more fulfilling social networks and connections. Relationships that provide care and support, create love and trust, and offer encouragement, both within and outside the family.  Optimists report less hopelessness and helplessness and are less likely to use avoidance as a coping mechanism when under duress.

When raising my children, there were many times that tears represented sadness.  What I remember, is how those tears were short lived.  I always invited others to understand what I was going through and share in my pain.  Due to this vulnerability, I opened myself up to many people who could provide comfort and a message of hope and optimism that could get me through the distressing moment.

When my youngest son was 16, we had endured years of his emotional turmoil.  This unrest – possibly a result of being deaf, abandoned at such a young age and a minority.  I remember a talk from a psychiatrist in an emergency room, he was firm with me “You do not give up on him, he needs you to believe in him now more than ever”.  He went on to say that this is the time that many parents throw in the towel with kids who are behaviorally disruptive.  This doctor was telling me “you’re not done yet” he gave me the confidence to fight the good fight for many more years to come.  He wanted me to stand firmly in optimism.

Active coping using behavioral or psychological techniques utilized to reduce or overcome stress has been linked to resilience in the individual.  Strategies that help us actively process the physical and emotional stress that is part of life.  Talking with friends and family, writing in a journal, shooting hoops, engaging in yoga, joining an art class, these are all considered active coping skills.  Active coping involves thinking, even if it is not about the problem at hand.  Active coping helps one refresh the mind.

I have always been active to maintain my physical health.  I have always tried to reach out and help others in many different capacities, serving on boards, volunteering,  joining committees, taking up legislative issues. It has been important to me to be a good mother, daughter, and friend.  It has helped for me to always be aware that I am more than a person who has much adversity in her life, I am also a person who is blessed with much love in her life.

Cognitive reappraisal is also strongly associated with resilience.  This is the ability to monitor and assess negative thoughts and replace them with more positive ones.  Changing the way one may view events or situations, finding the silver lining in the dark cloud.

I remember friends asking how I reacted when I knew my child was profoundly deaf.  It was such a strange question to me as I was just happy that he was alive and the idea that he would not hear to this day has never been a source of sorrow for me.  It was my ability to see beyond and not become stuck in a labeled disability.  I was able to look at the larger context, how will he communicate with us, researching and educating my own self to the possibilities.

Building resilience does not always come easy. 

Having your own personal experience with hardship is what builds your strength and confidence to conquer what comes your way.  The process of resiliency can also be helped along by good families, schools, communities and social policies that make resilience more likely to occur.  It is important to remember that everyone can develop resilience and the ability to “bounce back” from hardship.

My oldest son is now 27 years old and lives independently with in-home supports.  All of my adult children are now facing their own challenges and building their own strength toward resilience.  My family offers each other encouragement and support as we discover life’s unexpectancies.

“Fall down seven times… get up eight”  
-The happiness institute

 

Author: Terri Thompson, LCPC

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(Auburn, Maine) Health Affiliates Maine a statewide substance abuse and mental health agency announces the recent hiring of Kim Morrison, LMSW-CC.  Morrison joins Health Affiliates Maine’s growing team of affiliate counselors as a Licensed Master Social Worker.  She will be providing therapy for young adults, adults, couples and the immigrant-refugee population in both the Lewiston-Auburn and Augusta areas. 

Morrison uses a variety of therapeutic tools such as motivational interviewing, mindfulness, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and solution focused therapy.  Using these techniques she is able to treat a variety of mental health issues including, anxiety, depression, trauma, post-traumatic stress, grief/loss, self-esteem, life transitions, stress management, obsessive compulsive disorder and much more.

Morrison explains “My goal is to ensure individuals feel safe and comfortable so that we are able to identify and work on life goals.  I work together with individuals so they can develop skills and other strategies that can help in coping with challenging situations”.

A graduate of University of New England and Salem State University, Morrison’s past experience includes working with adults in residential and outpatient settings. Morrison currently accepts Mainecare insurance. 

To make a referral, an appointment or for more information call 1-877-888-4304 or visit www.healthaffiliatesmaine.com/referral

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Hi, everybody! I am attempting my first blog for Health Affiliates Maine. They say it simply. ”Everyone needs help now and then” and in my experience, that has certainly been true.  What I like is that they offer help statewide – just as I forecast the weather statewide, when I fill in at NEWS CENTER. In this space, from time to time, I will share some thoughts and feelings around my journey of recovery.

I talk a lot about reaching out for help. In the beginning, I was not even sure that I needed any help. I did not have any awareness that, how I grew up – living with an alcoholic Dad and a depressed Mom – affected so much of my life.

Two things I remember when I first reached out for help.

  • One was the shame I felt around the thinking that I should be able to figure this out on my own. To me, it felt like a sign of weakness. I have come to see now that asking for help is really a sign of strength.
  • Two was the feeling I was betraying the family. My Dad and Mom’s problems were not talked about inside the home and FOR SURE not outside the home! It was a secret and I felt a lot of guilt about letting “the cat out of the bag”.

Today, I am aware that everyone owns their own bag of stuff.

In order for me to start feeling better, I had to start speaking my truth. The truth about how I WAS affected by what I grew up with around me. Not to blame but to accept this truth and figure out what I own in order to start a true recovery for me.  This was a lesson that was tough for me for a long time but over the last 5 years my wife Linda has shown me, by example, and I am learning for myself, how to weave this into my life. It takes practice to change old habits but I keep at it and I do see change. No shame in that!!

In the beginning, I was not even sure that I needed any help.

That said, shame can creep in so effortlessly.

It came up for me at a ‘Weathering Shame” book talk recently – this feeling of shame – for wanting to come to a talk. Being seen in the crowd can feel shameful because it might carry the stigma of a problem – personal or in a family. This shows the work we still need to do around making it more comfortable and acceptable to reach out for help.

This is why I am so happy and proud to be a part of the Health Affiliates Maine TV and Radio public service campaign around shame and stigma, where more stories of recovery are being shared.  

Talking and sharing is an important part of the journey towards Mental Wellness.

 

Author: Kevin Mannix, Weather Forecaster,WCSH 6, NEWS CENTERS and co-author of “Weathering Shame”

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In Maine, over the last 10-15 years, the rising tide of prescription painkillers abuse and other opiates based drugs (legal and illegal) has reached epidemic proportions. The abuse of alcohol and other addictive drugs like marijuana/synthetic cannabinoids, cocaine/crack, benzodiazepines, and methamphetamine also remain widespread.

As our families come together over the holiday season and we transition into the new year, it is important for us to all be aware that the devasting disease of addiction can impact all areas of an individual’s life, causing problems with family, friendships, work, school, finances, legal issues, along with physical and psychological health.

Addiction and its ripples effect cause destruction not only in the individual who abuses substances but in the lives of loved ones as well. These loved ones often experience unhealthy stress, anxiety, depression, physical sickness, and an overall diminished ability to do their best work or enjoy activities.

Warning Signs of Drug Abuse/Addiction:

  • Intense cravings or urges for the drug (mental and physical)
  • Compulsion to use the drug frequently (several times a day to several times a week)
  • Increased tolerance to the drug
  • Irresponsible spending of money
  • Failing to meet obligations and responsibilities, and/or cutting back on social/recreational activities
  • Violating historic morals and values to hide use or by doing things to get the drug that you normally wouldn’t do (stealing, cheating, manipulating)
  • Increased risk taking behaviors
  • Continuing to use despite wanting and trying to stop
  • Experiencing psychological and/or physical withdrawal symptoms when you attempt to stop taking the drug

Recognizing drug Abuse/Addiction in family members, friends, and co-workers:

  • Problems at work or home – frequently missing work, increased isolation, increased irritability
  • Physical health issues – lack of energy and motivation
  • Neglected appearance – lack of interest in clothing, grooming
  • Changes in behavior – exaggerated/argumentative efforts to hide or minimize use from family members, being secretive, distancing from family and friends
  • Changes in relationship with money – irresponsible spending of money, requests for money without a reasonable explanation, stealing money and valuables from others.

Help is Available:

If you or someone you know, needs assistance with addiction:

 

Author: Brian Dineen, LCPC, LADC, CCS, Outpatient Therapy Program Supervisor, Health Affiliates Maine

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For those in early recovery, it is probably not a good idea to go to a New Year’s party where there is going to be alcohol. Even those who are well established in their sobriety can find such events a challenge. Sometimes, though, it can be difficult to avoid such events, and there may be a situation where you might feel as though you cannot get out of going.

For example, it may be expected as part of a job commitment. If you feel that you are at high risk of relapse then you should avoid this party no matter what the consequences.

Here are a few ideas for creating a plan to survive a New Year’s party with your sobriety intact:

Practice saying NO.

It may sound a bit odd but it can actually help to practice saying no to alcoholic drinks before the party. This can be better done with the help of somebody else in the form of role play. Some partygoers can be particularly persistent when it comes to getting other people to drink, often because they have their own alcohol demons pulling the strings. It is best to be prepared for such doggedness. In most instances, a firm no will be enough to end such questioning. Giving a longwinded answer can just lead to further questioning.

Bring a friend.

One of the best ways to survive these gatherings is to bring along another friend who is not going to be drinking alcohol. If this individual is also in recovery, then it is vital that their sobriety is well-established. Otherwise, both of these attendees could be at risk of relapse.

Take along some additional support.

It can also be helpful to take along some addiction recovery material. These days this can be discreetly done using Smartphone such as the iPhone. There are many apps available that are designed for people recovering from addiction. These include written, audio and video material.

Check ahead for drink alternatives. 

It is crucial to check ahead to make sure that there will be suitable non-alcoholic drinks available. If they are not then you will want to bring along your own favorite soft drink.

Don’t leave your drink alone. 

It is not a good idea for people in recovery to ever leave their drink unattended. There are some individuals who enjoy spiking the drinks of other people by adding alcohol to them. The person who engages in such behavior may think that they are livening up the party, but it can be devastating for people in recovery to find out that their drink has been spiked.

It’s ok to leave.

If you feel overwhelmed by the occasion, you should leave right away. You should then seek assistance and support from a sober friend or recovery group. It is best to plan an escape route before you attend.

 

Content courtesy of alcoholrehab.com

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Each January, millions of people attempt to improve something in their lives by committing to a New Year’s Resolution – a promise to themselves that, this year, things will be different.  By February, many of those resolutions are forgotten or discarded. 

What happens to our resolve?

We set a goal that is too large.

Smaller steps toward a larger goal help you to experience success along the way and evaluate what to do next (or whether you want to continue).

We catch a bad case of the “shoulds.” 

We think we should lose weight, should be more organized, should stop smoking.  When we try to do something we think we “should” do, we can feel resentful and uninvested.

We try to go it alone. 

Change is hard.  When we try to do it all by ourselves, it can be easy to get exhausted and discouraged.

When we don’t follow through on our resolutions, we can feel like we’ve failed.

What can we do?

Focus on what you want, phrased in positive language. 

When we phrase our goals in positive language, in present tense, we train our minds to look for the positive.  So, instead of “I will stop smoking,” try “I breathe clean, fresh air,” or instead of “I will stop spending money,” try “I use my money to buy the necessities in life” or “I use my money for things that bring meaning and joy to my life.”

Evaluate why you want to make this resolution. 

Are you making this resolution to please others? Because you feel obligated?  Because you should?  Consider your investment in and motivation for the resolution.  Doing it for others rarely works.

Get support. 

Having others cheer you on (or doing it with you) can make the difference between sticking with it or not.  We feel accountable to those others. 

Remember, we can resolve to change any time we want.  Positive mental, physical, and spiritual health are lifelong resolutions – promises to ourselves that are worthy of keeping! 

 

Author: Mary Gagnon, LMFT, Training and Clinical Development Specialist & Outpatient Therapy Supervisor, Health Affiliates Maine

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Sometimes holidays hurt.  The holiday cards and promotions are full of pictures of beautiful families smiling around a fireplace or dinner table.   For some families, the reality doesn’t match that picture.  Family relationships come with history, “the good, the bad, and the ugly,” anything from an unintentional slight, to childhood trauma.  Hurts are the emotional leftovers of life, and when mixed with alcohol, they can turn into not-so-happy holidays.

Holiday celebrations and family gatherings are a good thing.  For many, they are the most important part of the year. Everyone wants “Peace on Earth,” not just for the world, but at home and in our hearts.  If there are emotional leftovers and hurtful words that have affected your family relationships, it is healthy to try to sort it out, and when possible, to make amends.

Everyone wants “Peace on Earth,” not just for the world, but at home and in our hearts. 

First

Own what is yours.   We all make mistakes.  Sometimes, we just hurt people.  It might be out of anger, or, we innocently step on a minefield with our words and actions, unaware of how someone else will interpret them.  

Next

Apologize.  Learning to apologize and take responsibility for our actions takes work and courage.  There are many sites online to help you learn this, using the search word “apology”.   The payoff can mean deeper more loving relationships. 

Here’s an example.  Let’s say you had a heart-wrenching misunderstanding with someone you care deeply about.  You may not have known how to apologize — unsure of what you had done.  In this case, you might to call them saying, “I really value our relationship and I want to fix it, but I don’t know how”.  They may hang up on you or they may allow a conversation to begin.  Just knowing you tried will bring you peace.

Sometimes it takes more than an apology. 

Some hurts run deep and can affect other relationships.  That is when reaching out to a counselor for help can really make a difference in your life.  It takes courage.  Feeling better is worth it.  The holidays come around every year — another chance to make them happy.

 

Author: Luanne Starr Rhoades, LCPC, LADC, CCS, Health Affiliates Maine

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That’s a good question isn’t it? Most of the time when people talk about mental health they are talking about mental health treatment or a person who was given a mental health diagnosis, (which is a fancy name for describing what symptoms a person has), but that isn’t what mental health is either.

Mental Health has a lot of different parts. It is our sense of well-being. How we think, how we act and how we feel about ourselves.  It is looking at the complete picture of who you are, what is happening around you and how it does or does not change your thoughts about who you are.  The most important part is that EVERYONE has mental health.  It is a part of who we are as human beings. 

How do we figure out what our mental health is?

Let’s look at the different parts…think of it like a circle with all of these things around it.

circle2Emotions:  Do you spend a lot of time being happy, smiling, laughing?

Your mind:  Are you satisfied, content, at peace with yourself and others? Do you like yourself and who you are?

Your thoughts: Do you think about how happy you are with yourself? Are you proud of yourself?  Do you say to yourself “way to go”, “I am wonderful”, “I am a great person”, “I really did well”, “I did the best that I could and that’s okay” or other thoughts that make you feel worthwhile?

Your Body:  Is your body physically fit? The correct weight?  Does your body feel calm and at ease?  Are you okay with your body?  Is it good enough, pretty/handsome enough? Does it do what you want it to do when you want it to?

Your immediate world:  Do you have family/friends that cheer you up and that you feel you can talk to about anything?  Is everything going well at school/work/your family/your neighborhood?  Do you have beliefs or a religion or go to a church, synagogue, mosque, prayer group or other where you are accepted for who you are?  Do you follow certain beliefs about your culture – learned from your family, by following certain holidays -Christmas, Hannukah, Ramadan,…or by celebrating 4th of July, having a birthday party to celebrate another year of life; being raised to know what foods to eat or not to eat, what clothes to wear, how to talk to others, etc.?

Your greater world:  Are you satisfied how your State or how the government is being run?  With the environment and climate change?   With how your country and other countries deal with each other?  Do you think about this at all? A little?  A lot????

In General:  Do you feel that life is okay or even great!  Do you feel okay with yourself and who you are?  When you do get upset – sad and cry, angry and throw a tantrum or yell or when you are frustrated raise your voice, throw things, hit something or not want anyone to be around you, is it only for short periods of time and then you feel better? As you grow older do you change how you react to others?  Do you feel in control of yourself and your actions?

In the circle, all of these things coming together to change how you feel about yourself, which changes how you behave, which affects your mental health.  The wonderful part is that your mental health changes daily and, if you are not satisfied, you can change. 

So, if you are doing well, can control yourself, talk to others and feel happy with yourself, then your mental health is fine.  If however, you are not and that ongoing worries, are sad or upset most of the time, don’t feel alright with yourself, you are not alone. There are many people that have difficulty with their mental health. A mental health specialist – therapist, counselor can help get you back on track and feeling better about yourself.

 

Author: Cynthia Booker-Bingler, LCSW, Health Affiliates Maine

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Have you ever felt as though you need a little help getting into the spirit of the holidays?  It can be true for many of us, because let’s face it; this time of year can be rather stressful. Often times though, it is the smallest and simplest of activities that provide us joy and happiness.  And it is no different during the holidays.

So we have pulled together a list of inexpensive activities that might help lift you into that festive mood.  Pick a few that bring a smile to your face and hopefully you will experience your own little slice of the holiday spirit.

  1. Watch your favorite old holiday movies at your house.
  2. Play in the snow or make your own.
  3. Drink hot cocoa in your pj’s.
  4. Write letters to out-of-town friends and relatives.
  5. Look at old family holiday photo albums (these make for great TBTs).
  6. Make homemade potpourri to make your place smell amazing.
  7. Go ice-skating.
  8. Light an evergreen-scented candle in your room.
  9. Do holiday-themed nail art.
  10. Make a holiday playlist.
  11. Create an Elf Yourself
  12. Host an “Ugly Sweater” party.
  13. Make a jar of good things — write down all the things you’re thankful for that happened in 2015. Read them again at this time next year.
  14. Have a bonfire with friends who are in town.
  15. Donate canned goods to a local food bank.
  16. Go on an outdoor adventure and take photos of the wintry scenery.
  17. Volunteer at a nursing home’s holiday party.
  18. Go see a local school’s holiday play.
  19. Do random acts of kindness; anonymously leave notes spreading holiday cheer on people’s cars.
  20. Hang Christmas lights along your bedroom walls.

*List courtesy of: www.popsugar.com

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Coronavirus/COVID-19 Alert - The health and safety of our affiliates, staff, case managers, and clients is our top priority. Our COVID-19 Updates page provides current information about how we are working together to help keep our communities safe. Learn More

We continue to accept referrals and are providing all services via Telehealth. If you or someone you know is in need of mental health services, please click here for online referral. Referral

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