STEVENSVILLE — In what some say was the longest negotiation in Bay Bridge history, a Kent Island man in crisis spent more than 20 hours over the side of the westbound span before a crisis intervention team was able to convince him to come down and speak with a doctor.

The incident began shortly after 9 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 20, when the man climbed over the wall and onto one of the cables. Maryland Transportation Authority Police called in the crisis negotiation team and closed two of the three lanes to traffic. Talks went on all night Thursday and all through the day Friday. The bucket on a firetruck was used to maneuver the negotiator closer so they could speak face to face.

Finally, shortly before 6 p.m. Friday, the man was successfully talked safely down and turned over to the care of emergency medical personnel.

Anyone contemplating suicide is urged to seek help by calling the Maryland Helpline at 1-800-422-0009 or dial 211 and select option 1 or or text 898-211.

Maryland’s Helpline is available around the clock to callers in need of crisis intervention. Trained counselors are available to help callers struggling with such issues as drug or alcohol use, depression, anxiety, suicidal/homicidal thoughts, physical and sexual abuse and more.

In July, the Maryland Department of Health launched MD Mind Health, a new text-based mental health initiative to fight isolation and encourage mental wellness.

“Staying connected with family, friends and other support systems is more challenging, and more important than ever,” said MDH Secretary Robert R. Neall in a news release. “In difficult times, it can make a difference to know you’re not alone.”

Maryland’s crisis hotline saw a significant increase in volume in recent months, especially in text messages. From March 2019 to March 2020, text messages increased by 842 percent; “chats” increased almost 84 percent; and calls increased almost 25 percent. Between February 2020 (1,619 calls) and March 2020 (2,345 calls), calls to Maryland 211 increased by 45 percent.

The MD Mind Health program is an extension of mental outreach provided by Behavioral Health Administration during the pandemic. Texts sent through the program will provide supportive mental health messages and also remind recipients that immediate access to mental health services is available.

More than half of Americans — 56 percent — surveyed by the Kaiser Family Foundation in late April, reported the coronavirus outbreak has caused them to experience at least one negative effect on their mental health, such as problems with sleeping or eating, increased alcohol use, or worsening chronic conditions. Even before COVID-19, anxiety ranked as one of the most common mental health disorders globally.

Text 898-211 to sign up for MD Mind Health to receive encouragement, reminders and resources for staying connected. Messages include tips about self-compassion and self-care, concrete suggested actions, recommended podcasts and apps, inspirational quotes and information on how to find community resources and get help if needed.

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