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PROVIDENCE, RI – Governor Dan McKee on Friday hosted a two-hour Facebook Live event in observance of Rhode Island’s second annual ‘Mental Health Action Day.’ The event featured state, federal and community leaders taking action to end the stigma surrounding mental health and substance use disorders. During the event, Governor McKee signed a proclamation declaring May 20 ‘Mental Health Action Day’ in Rhode Island.

As the global conversation around mental health continues – including the White House’s new unity agenda strategy to address mental health in the United States – finding effective resources and knowing how to get help remains a challenge. Rhode Island’s Mental Health Action Day encourages people to take their first steps towards mental health action – whether for themselves, for their loved ones or to advocate for systemic changes through a wide range of tools.

“The last two years have exacerbated mental health challenges, especially for young people, but also have encouraged us to talk about them more openly,” said Governor McKee. “At this time, it is important that we come together as Rhode Islanders with the common goal of changing the narrative surrounding mental health. It’s our goal to enhance the community of supports and services – and show people that help is available.”

Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse, Congressmen Jim Langevin and David Cicilline, Lt. Governor Sabina Matos, Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea, and General Treasurer Seth Magaziner joined Governor McKee to launch the inaugural event.

Executive Office of Health and Human Services Acting Secretary Ana Novais; Rhode Island Department of Education Commissioner Angélica Infante-Green; Department of Behavioral Health, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals Director Richard Charest; Office of Veterans Services Director Kasim Yarn; and Adjutant General and Commanding General of the Rhode Island National Guard Christopher Callahan, as well as community partners, joined Governor McKee at the event calling attention to mental health and wellness, and ensuring all Rhode Islanders have access to essential resources.

“In the wake of the pandemic, our ability to prioritize mental health and substance use disorders is more important than ever,” said EOHHS Acting Secretary Novais. “Normalizing action, not just awareness, is critical to restoring our collective well-being and ushering in a new era of mental health equity. The Governor’s Overdose Prevention and Intervention Task Force is dedicated to our mission of saving lives. We also are continuing our collective efforts to deliver supports and services that meet the specific needs of Rhode Islanders and allow them to be healthy, safe and independent.”

The first panel during the Facebook Live event featured Commissioner Infante-Green and Rosemary Reilly-Chammat, School Health Policy and Program Specialist, speaking about mental health and wellness for school age children. Kids’ Link RI is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to help children and youth in need of mental health services and refer them to treatment providers. Contact Kids’ Link RI at 855-543-5465.

The Vet Center gave a presentation on programs and resources available, including confidential help for Veterans, service members, and their families. Services include counseling for needs such as depression, post traumatic stress disorder, and the psychological effects of military sexual trauma. The Providence Vet Center can be reached at 401-739-0167.

Care New England and the Executive Office of Health and Human Services presented on preventing bias in our community and our daily lives. Depression, anxiety and suicide are common mental health conditions associated with lacking a sense of belonging. These conditions can lead to social behaviors that interfere with a person’s ability to connect to others, creating a cycle of events that further weakens a sense of belonging.

Director Yarn, Major General Callahan, and Captain James McIver, Naval Station Newport discussed reducing military mental health stigma, improving treatment engagement, and resources available to Rhode Island’s active duty and Veteran populations. To connect with these resources, go to www.vets.ri.gov or call 401-921-2119.

EOHHS Acting Secretary Novais and BHDDH Director Charest presented the work of the Governor’s Overdose Prevention and Intervention Task Force. BH Link, Rhode Island’s one-stop, state-wide 24/7 call-in center that connects people to appropriate care and resources, when they or someone they care about is experiencing a behavioral healthcare crisis. It is also a 24/7 community-based walk-in and drop-off facility where clinicians can connect people to immediate, stabilizing emergency behavioral health services, and long-term care and recovery supports. Connect to BH Link at bhlink.org or by calling 401-414-LINK (5465).

Though more people than ever are comfortable discussing mental health, some people struggle finding resources and knowing how to get help can be a challenge. Rhode Island’s Mental Health Action Day is driving culture from mental health awareness to mental health action. The panelists offered tangible tools for Rhode Islanders to take action for themselves, for their loved ones, and for our community.

In closing the event, Director Yarn remarked: “If you have concerns about your own, or a loved one’s mental health, don’t remain silent; please take action, that’s what today is all about. The bottom line is that you are not alone.”

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