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Youth peer support center opens in Portland

Maine Behavioral Healthcare opened the center for young people with mental health challenges

PORTLAND, Maine — For young people who are dealing with mental health challenges, it may feel like there's no one to turn to sometimes. That's why Maine Behavioral Healthcare has opened a youth peer center so teens and adults who are struggling can help each other through it with local resources.

On Tuesday, the Youth Peer Center at Maine Behavioral Healthcare officially opened.

"I think that this space has really been a labor of love," Asher Havlin, who works at the peer center, said.

Havlin who is a member of trans community said that they had a hard time with their mental health, "I spent so much of my life not thinking that I could be alive." 

They added they often felt like an outsider so now, they're trying to bring people inside.

The space was designed by employees and young people in the community. They say what makes this center unique is that everyone who works there can relate to dealing with mental health challenges.

"I was having panic attacks and started going to a psychiatrist and taking anti-anxiety medication," said Ariel Linet, Youth Peer Center manager.

The center offers a place for youth to come and hang out, play games, and use the kitchen without feeling like they are at a doctor's office.

"You're not being diagnosed,"  Maria Hadjiyane, vice president of ambulance services at Maine Behavioral Healthcare, said. "You're just having someone say, 'Look, I've been there, and let me tell you what I went through.'"

"Unlike any other sort of clinical type services in the mental and behavioral health world, ours is really about building relationships between two people who can understand each other's shared life experience and kind of navigate that journey together," Linet added.

The center is open for drop-ins on Tuesdays as well as scheduled classes throughout the week. Leaders here say they are open to changing the schedule, and planning activities that suit the group.

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