Basic precautions and supports can promote physical and mental health during a time of reflection, gatherings, and travel
AUGUSTA— The Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) is encouraging Maine people to take simple steps to prevent the spread of illnesses and support mental health during this holiday season.
“Taking a few simple steps can help to make the holidays a healthy, joyful time for reflecting on the past year, gathering with friends and family, and traveling,” said DHHS Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew and Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention Director Nirav D. Shah. “Such steps include being up to date on vaccines, taking precautions against respiratory illnesses, using free tests to check for COVID-19, making sure you have health coverage to cover care, and reaching out for emotional support.”
Tips and Resources for a Healthy Holiday Season
Prevent and limit the spread of respiratory viruses: Several respiratory viruses are currently circulating statewide, including influenza (flu), COVID-19, and Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV). People can take the following steps to reduce the spread of illness:
- Stay home when you’re sick
- Wash your hands frequently
- Cover your coughs and sneezes
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth
- Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects
For COVID-19 and flu, getting up to date on vaccinations now will mean full protection kicks in during the first weeks of the new year. Both the flu and COVID-19 vaccines and boosters are widely available across the state, at no cost, in local pharmacies, doctors’ offices, and community clinics. Everyone six months and older is eligible for both a flu vaccine and a COVID-19 vaccination. Everyone five years of age and older is eligible for a COVID-19 booster if they received their last COVID-19 vaccination at least twomonths ago.
Stock up on free at-home COVID-19 tests: Testing for COVID-19 before and after holiday gatherings and travel helps keep families and communities safe. Maine people can order one free kit that contains five at-home, rapid COVID-19 tests every month through Project Access Covid Tests (Project ACT) at accesscovidtests.org. In addition, the Federal government recently announced the re-start of its program to provide free rapid tests to U.S. residents through the U.S. Postal Service at COVIDTests.gov.
Sign up for affordable, high quality health insurance: If you or your family lack affordable health coverage, explore your options through CoverME.gov, Maine’s State-based Health Insurance Marketplace. You have through January 15, 2023, to sign up for a plan that takes effect on February 1, 2023. Plans offered through CoverME.gov cover a comprehensive array of physical and behavioral health needs. Visit CoverME.gov today to compare plans, enroll in coverage, or access free help. Health coverage improves the affordability of treatment when you need it as well as preventative services to keep you healthy in the first place. It also gives you the peace of mind of knowing your finances are protected against one accident or illness.
If you or a loved one is feeling overwhelmed, anxious, or sad, reach out for help: The demands of the holiday season can lead to an increase in stress, depression, and other behavioral health challenges. Some of the signs that you may be experiencing burnout or other stressors and that your mental health may need attention include irritability, nervousness, changes in appetite, fatigue, and difficulty sleeping or concentrating. More serious warning signs may include a sense of hopelessness, withdrawing from loved ones, substance misuse, self-harm, and feelings, thoughts, or actions of suicide.
Seek help immediately if you or someone you know is talking about suicide, feelings of hopelessness or unbearable pain, or about being a burden to others.
- If you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health crisis, call or text 988 to reach the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. The 988 Lifeline responds 24 hours a day, seven days a week to calls, chats or texts from anyone who needs support for suicidal, mental health, and/or substance use crisis, and connects those in need with trained crisis counselors. Individuals can also dial 988 if they are worried about a loved one who may need crisis support.
For those not experiencing a crisis, StrengthenME is an initiative to help Mainers get connected to free stress management and resiliency resources to promote health and well-being. Services are completely anonymous, easy to access, and community focused.
- If you or someone you know is looking for support, call StrengthenME at (207) 221-8198, seven days a week, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., or visitStrengthenME.com.
StrengthenME also supports theState of Maine and Work Force Employee Assistance Program (EAP)that specifically serves frontline workers, providing wellness workshops, peer connection groups, free confidential coaching sessions with a licensed mental health professional and more. It also operates theFrontLine WarmLine, a dedicated phone support service for health care workers, first responders, and school staff.
- If you or someone you know is a health care worker, social services worker, first responder or school staff in need of support, call the FrontLine WarmLine at (207) 221-8196seven days a week, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Since launching in October 2020, the StrengthenME coalition has provided help through over 60,000 contacts with Maine people. StrengthenME also provides information and support resources through social media and a resource website where site visitors can take a Wellness Check-In quiz.
If you or someone you know needs other support and you don’t know who to call, reach out to 211. 211 Maine is a free, confidential information and referral service that connects people of all ages across Maine to local services. 211 Maine is based in Maine and available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. 211 Maine’s specialists are trained and friendly; they know we all need help sometimes.