HAMPDEN, Maine — Between classes, exams, homework and making new friends, the start of school can be stressful on students' mental health.

With this in mind, an ongoing partnership between Hampden Academy and Bangor's Northern Light Acadia Hospital working to address youth mental health is now expanding to schools across the entire state of Maine.

Five-hundred Acadia CARES packages with resources about youth mental health have been assembled by hospital staff for schools, libraries, service organizations and mental health agencies around the state.

"CARES stands for the Child Adolescent Resource and Educational Series," said Chris McLaughlin, Northern Light Acadia Hospital's associate vice president of community and pediatric services. "Our goal is to get one of these cares packages in the hands of every school district that we possibly can."

They're starting with Hampden Academy.

"We take mental health very seriously," said Jill Kenney, who has been a school counselor at Hampden Academy for the past 14 years. "We have to be pretty skilled in crisis management at times. Students will come to us in crisis [having] panic attacks, and then the next student we have might be wanting to know how to get into Harvard."

She's excited to have the resources inside the Acadia CARES packages to help train teachers at her school about students' mental health.

"To really train teachers and staff for what to look for with kids who have anxiety or kids who are being bullied and things like that," added Kenney.

There are videos, brochures, posters, magnets, cards, crisis text-line bracelets, and a training guide for how best to use these resources inside each box.

Acadia CARES packages
NCM

"We thought it was really important in our community to tackle the issues of youth suicide head on," added McLaughlin. "This community has had several losses over the last several years and so we decided that as a hospital system and as a psychiatric facility it was really our obligation to put our expertise into the hands of folks who really needed to have this education."

"Everything that comes through our door is extremely important," said Kenney. "We have students with a lot of serious things going on in their lives and we feel like every single one of those issues is important and something that we need to be there to help support."

This partnership between Hampden Academy and Acadia Hospital has been ongoing for years but McLaughlin and Kenney hope for the future these packages prove "good things come in small boxes."

School administrators and counselors across the state are urged to visit the closest Northern Light-affiliated hospital to their district to pick up an Acadia CARES package for their school, free of charge.

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