Anie Graham, a 13-year-old Lewiston Middle School student, took her own life Tuesday. While her family, friends and classmates and community mourn their loss, the rest of us should confront the fact that a lot of young people in Maine can’t get the help they need before they reach this point of no return.

Anie’s tragic death has been roiling her community since Lewiston Middle School students learned Wednesday that she had died of suicide. About 50 of them walked out of class in protest that day, the Portland Press Herald and other news outlets reported, and her father, Matt Graham, and friends told the media that she had been harassed at school and on social media.

Who said what to whom and when regarding Anie’s plight prior to her death may never be fully clarified. But she suffered from depression, her parents, Matt and Rosi, told WGME on Thursday. And while most people with mental illness do not die by suicide, more than 90 percent of those who do die by suicide have a diagnosable mental health condition.

Support for people with mental illness is notably lacking across the country, and across all age groups. The vast majority of teens — anywhere from 60 to 90 percent — who are struggling with depression, anxiety and other mental health issues never get treatment.

Maine is a rural state with a chronic shortage of mental health care providers like psychiatrists, psychologists and social workers – and mental health resources for children and adolescents are “extremely limited” outside of Cumberland County, according to researchers, with families in eastern and northern Maine driving hours to get to an appointment.

Efforts have been made in Maine to address this issue, such as the innovative Child Psychiatry Access Program, which gives primary care doctors quick access to child psychiatrists. The psychiatrists provide regular training sessions for pediatricians on such topics as warning signs that a child might need psychiatric care and the effects of various medications and treatment.

There are other resources, too. The Maine Suicide Prevention Program is an excellent source of information; their hotline — 1-888-568-1112 — is a 24/7 resource for young people. Family Hope ( or 396-4313) — started by Donna Betts of Scarborough after her 23-year-old son died by suicide — helps Maine families navigate the mental health system. And NAMI Maine — or (800) 464-5767 — has long been a reliable provider of mental health support, education and advocacy.

But the state has also taken several steps backward, deciding last year to cancel — without explanation — an effective early intervention program for young adults who have or are at risk of developing a mental illness leaving on the table $3 million in federal funds.

Suicide is the second leading cause of death for Mainers ages 10 to 25, and the number of suicides among 15- to 24-year-olds in the state is on the rise — from 17 in 2008 to 30 in 2014. Instead of undercutting programs that help vulnerable youth, we should be pushing for their expansion. It won’t be easy, but the effort will be worth it if it saves even just one young person’s life.

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