September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, a time to remind our fellow community members that help is available for them and for those they love who may be in crisis.

“It can be frightening if someone you love talks about suicidal thoughts. It can be even more frightening if you find yourself thinking about dying or giving up on life,” states the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). “Comments or thoughts about suicide — also known as suicidal ideation — can begin small like, ‘I wish I wasn’t here’ or ‘Nothing matters.’ But over time, they can become more explicit and dangerous.”

According to the National Institute of Mental health, suicide is among the leading causes of death in the United States and rates are on the rise in some populations.

Calling 211 in Maryland helps connect you 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, with health resources in the state including those available for mental health.

On the eve of World Suicide Prevention Day Sept. 10, 211 Maryland Inc. officially launched its new Health Check program providing access to weekly, proactive mental health check-ins.

According to a news release, the 211 Health Check program was created by the Thomas Bloom Raskin Act, passed with bipartisan support during the 2021 General Assembly session in honor of Congressman Jamie Raskin’s late son.

“Sarah and I and our whole family are gratified that Maryland is in the forefront of advancing both general mental health efforts and specific suicide prevention strategies,” Congressman Raskin said in a statement. “We hope the Thomas Bloom Raskin Act will send the message throughout Maryland that we have the resources and the will to help everyone get through a mental or emotional health crisis.”

Any Marylander who is feeling sad, lonely, stressed, anxious or just in need of some extra support can enroll in the program by texting HealthCheck to 211MD1 (211631), the release states. Later this fall, people will be able to enroll by calling 211.

By enrolling, participants will receive an initial call from a trained specialist with weekly followups. As part of the weekly check-in, the specialist will connect the participant to local mental health resources. Participants can continue receiving weekly calls until they decide to opt out of the program.

According to the release, mental health has been one of the top reasons people call 211 for the last five years. In the past year, 211 has reportedly received more than 18,000 calls for mental health, suicide and crisis support.

“Our country is in a state of crisis from the pandemic as we’ve seen how the stressors of a loss of a job, loss of a loved one or loss of a home have created a surge in mental health needs,” said Quinton Askew, president and CEO of 211 Maryland Inc. “These trigger moments can cause mental health issues, like depression, thoughts of suicide and increased substance use.”

This new service from 211 Maryland is very important because mental health is a key component of whole-body health. The check-ins provide easy access to specialists and resources. To learn more about 211 Maryland’s mental health programs, please visit

For All Seasons Behavioral Health and Rape Crisis Center serves all five Mid-Shore counties, with a Kent County office at located 516 Washington Ave., Chestertown. It maintains 24-hour hotlines at 1-800-310-7273 or 410-820-5600. Call 410-829-6143 for Spanish. You also can text in English or Spanish to 410-829-6143. Go to to learn more.

NAMI of Kent and Queen Anne’s Counties maintains a local help line at 443-480-0565. If no one answers, leave a voice mail. NAMI Maryland has a statewide help line, 410-884-8691. Visit and for more information.

For the Kent County Health Department, contact 410-778-5783 ext. 3254 or visit

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 800-273-TALK (8255).

Call 911 if you or someone you know is in an emergency.

And please remember: help is just a phone call away.

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