Abby Irvine: Social work major passionate about helping others

People undergoing treatment for narcotic abuse at Northern Light Acadia Hospital received blankets and self-care items from staff on Christmas Day.

Each present came with a handwritten card from Abby Irvine that contained one of 83 positive affirmations:

“I am worthy of love and respect.”

“I am proud of what I accomplish every day.”

“Small steps forward are still steps.”

“My past does not define me.”

And, this one that Irvine’s mom taught her: “I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I know it’s going to be great.”

Some patients cried. Others said the messages were exactly what they needed.

“It was so rewarding to know that I positively impacted so many people,” says Irvine, a social work major and anthropology minor at the University of Maine and an intern with the hospital’s Narcotic Treatment Program.

“Negative self-talk can be a huge issue, especially for patients in recovery, so knowing that I may have made a difference is a big accomplishment for me.”

In addition to shadowing clinicians at the Bangor facility, Irvine assists with patient intake, helps run outpatient groups and takes on projects.

The resident of Seal Cove, Maine chose to pursue an education in social work because of her desire to help people.

“I grew up in a low-income rural area in Maine,” says Irvine, who is on track to graduate in spring 2019. “The situations I found myself in gave me a passion to help others facing what I faced, and to work toward making changes in larger systems so that less people will be forced to go through the same struggles.”

The 2015 Mount Desert Island High School graduate describes herself as quiet. She used to think she couldn’t be a leader.

“However, my time at UMaine has taught me that I do have the skills necessary to be a good leader,” she says. “My experience has helped me gain the confidence to voice my ideas and opinions, and even take on leadership roles at my job.”

The Rose Garden near the Collins Center for the Arts is Irvine’s favorite place on campus.

“When I was new to campus in 2015, this was the first garden I found. And even though it is small, it was the closest I could get to the peaceful forests I was used to in Acadia National Park,” she says. “When I was homesick, I would have small picnics here between classes.”

Irvine, who enjoys drawing, exploring nature, baking and caring for her cats Kiki and Simone and her dog JJ, now considers UMaine a home away from home. Her friends in the School of Social Work are sources of strength and comfort.

“When my father passed away suddenly in October 2018, it was very difficult to focus on school and my internship,” she says. “If I didn’t have the community of my class in the School of Social Work, and the professors willing to work with me through the most difficult time in my life, there is no way I could have completed that semester and gone on to accomplish this project. I am so thankful for everyone who supports me.”

Irvine plans to earn a master’s in social work at UMaine. “I am very interested in the mental health field of social work, and I believe that continuing to work at Acadia will offer great experience for the paths I decide to follow once I have a master’s degree.”