In this photo from May, Woolwich Central School students were welcomed by community members looking to remind them that they matter. It was part of a series of surprise You Matter events organized by the Midcoast Community Alliance to remind students how important they are to their community. (Nathan Strout / The Times Record)

BATH — One in five Sagadahoc County youth say they’ve seriously considered suicide, according to a countywide health survey. That 20 percent result is more than 3 percentage points higher than the statewide average, but more of these students are starting to ask for help than in the past.

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 other year.

The 2017 data shows 30 percent of Sagadahoc County high school students felt sad or hopeless for two weeks in a row, which is about 3 percentage points higher than the statewide average.

“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. “To me, youth mental health is the one factor that I feel sort of stands out as concerning.”

On Friday, Mid Coast Hospital held a first conversation on the data with stakeholders, advocates, community members and service providers.

According to Fochesato, the 2011 Affordable Care Act requires hospitals to put together a community health improvement plan every three years. The county health profiles gather available data about the county’s health to give hospital administrators a picture of the most pressing health concerns in the community so they can design a plan to address them.


Youth mental health was also a concern the last time the hospital created an action plan, although Fochesato noted that there have been some improvements made.

“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 trainings, 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.

Fochesato said that the hospital had been working closely with the alliance to help more kids feel like they matter to the community and find help from an adult when they felt sad or depressed. Those concerns have been mirrored by the Midcoast Community Alliance, who’s organized a number of “You Matter” events, where community members gather at a local school to greet students and let them know they matter. Those efforts appear to have had an effect.

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.

Mid Coast Hospital will use the profile, as well as feedback from the community, to develop a report that will guide their efforts over the next three years. That report, which is expected to be approved by the board next summer, will be available online.

If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health issues, contact the Maine crisis hotline at 1-888-568-1112 or National Association on Mental Illness crisis hotline at (800) 464-5767.

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