For more than 70 years, May has been recognized as Mental Health Awareness Month. But as caregivers in the field will tell you, this past year has seen an unprecedented increase in the need for mental health assistance and treatment.

“This past year has been especially difficult for people living with mental health and substance use disorders. Social isolation, economic hardship, and physical health issues have exasperated behavioral health symptoms. Nevertheless providers on the Shore have been resilient and more organized,” said Dr. Ben Kohl, a clinical social worker and president of the boards of Mid Shore Behavior Health and Bridges at Worthmore.

For those experiencing a mental health issue or who know someone who is, there is a very important message to take to heart: You are not alone.

There is assistance available. There are dedicated mental health care professionals here ready to offer treatment and provide support.

A news release from National Alliance on Mental Health Issues (NAMI) reiterates statements from fellow mental health organizations and experts about the effects the COVID-19 pandemic on so many people, from the strains of isolated lockdowns to the anxiety returning to life in public settings. According to NAMI, annually about 1 in 5 Americans reported a mental health condition. In the past year that has risen to 2 in 5 or higher, NAMI states.

“The burden of living through a pandemic continues to impact our personal and professional relationships in unprecedented ways. We’ve all been impacted one way or another due to the stress and hardship we’ve endured as a country,” states the local NAMI for Kent and Queen Anne’s Counties affiliate in a news release. “This Mental Health Awareness Month, we endeavor to turn the tragic and life-changing impact of COVID-19 into a spotlight on the growing need for systematic improvements in our mental health care system, in order to meet the increased need as we return to some sense of a new normal as the world opens back up again. We will all be facing and adapting to this change together as a society.”

In addition to private practices, nonprofit organizations like NAMI and For All Seasons and agencies like Mid Shore Behavioral Health are available for residents here who need help. We encourage anyone who needs mental health assistance or knows someone who does to reach out for help.

“This is perhaps the most important mental health awareness month that we have experienced in a lifetime,” said Beth Anne Langrell, CEO of For All Seasons. “After this past year, everyone has experienced something different — stress, anxiety, loss, isolation ... the list goes on. Even if you are not someone who has a mental health diagnosis, each of us has experienced a mental health symptom since the start of the pandemic. Now more than ever we need to remember to check in on one another, to share the resources of mental health services, and to know that it’s ok to reach out for help.”

Kathryn Dilley, executive director of Mid Shore Behavioral Health, reminds us that mental health is part of our whole health.

“At Mid Shore Behavioral Health, Inc. our vision is to support a behavioral health system for our region that is clinically and culturally competent, that is accessible, community focused, cost-effective, and integrated with our community. In order to achieve this, we also need to work on breaking the barriers of stigma on our community and supporting anyone in need of help, to not feel inhibited to do so by stigma. This is an ongoing goal to support our community members with accessing help if needed,” Dilley said.

Contact the local NAMI affiliate via email at namikentandqueenannes@gmail.com or call the local help line at 443-480-0565 or the state help line at 410-884-8691.

The Mid Shore Behavioral Health website — www.midshorebehavioralhealth.org — offers information about services available through the agency. There also is an Eastern Shore Crisis Response Hotline — 888-407-8018 — with help available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

To learn about services provided by For All Seasons, visit for allseasonsinc.org. The organization maintains a 24-hour crisis hotline at 410-820-5600 in English, 410-829-6143 in Spanish and toll free at 800-310-7273 or text 410-829-6143.

Remember: You are not alone. There is help available. The first step is reaching out.

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