Woman Crush Wednesday Jean McGowan

Amy Phillips

It’s National Suicide Prevention Month and this week’s #WomanCrushWednesday goes out to the Development Director for Lines for Life, Jean McGowan.

Jean has deep rural Maine roots and they’ve served her well over the years! She grew up with her parents and four siblings in a small town, population 6,000. Her parents were very politically active and very committed to their community. They instilled in her the importance of being an active member of your community, and encouraged her to get involved with issues that are important to her. Those issues turned out to be homelessness, suicide prevention and addiction.  

Jean earned a degree in English literature from the University of Maine at Farmington. She moved west and lived in San Diego during the dot com crash, before moving to Portland in 2001. She got a job at Portland Homeless Family Solutions, as their capital campaign development director. She was offered a job at Lines for Life, but didn’t want to accept at first because the mission scared her! She agreed to be their interim development director – good thing she did, because she ended up LOVING the work. She was hired full-time about two years ago. She spends a lot of her time writing grants and connecting with sponsors and major donors. It’s a special place to work for so many reasons. There’s a focus on hiring people with true life experience relating to the nonprofit’s mission of suicide prevention, addiction treatment, and mental health. Jean herself has had friends succumb to addiction and she’s seen young people close to her suffer from suicide ideation. At Lines for Life, everyone takes care of each other. Mental health is prioritized – everyone who works there gets money for therapy. And during Covid, all employees get an extra mental health day. END THE STIGMA associated with mental health and make it a conversation we ALL have. It’s especially important for kids and teenagers, now more than ever. 

It probably comes as no surprise that the need for the services Lines for Life provides has grown tremendously in the past few months. The nonprofit staffs a 24/7 crisis line and they had to quickly develop a plan to make all of those crisis lines remote. They’ve seen a huge uptick in calls, particularly from lonely seniors, people struggling with addiction, and young people.   

Jean has two children and four stepchildren. She loves to ski and surf with her family. Other hobbies include reading, cooking, hiking… and music! Jean is a singer/songwriter – you can find her album on Spotify. Check it out!

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