Blue is Blue: Winter can have an impact on your health. Watch for the winter blues.

As the snow piles higher and higher this winter, do you ever say to yourself, “I just can’t take it anymore”? Lots of us feel that way; too many days bundling up and wearing boots, too few days with gray skies vs sunshine and more than enough days where driving is treacherous and walking the dog requires snowshoes and you worry about yourself, elderly family and neighbors and teenagers who are driving for the first time in winter weather. PHEW! Then there is being cooped up in the house, furnaces that go out on the coldest of days, cars that won’t start and the incessant shoveling. In addition, there’s a pandemic! Get the picture? Too much already! And if this isn’t enough, you may be one of the 10 million people who live with Seasonal Affective Disorder; a step above the winter blues, in fact, a winter-pervasive depression reducing motivation, concentration, and making people feel moody or manic.

You are probably wondering if your winter blues are more than “just tired of the winter weather”. You may recognize SAD when many elements of your life are off kilter and the season is the reason. So, you may be able to think of other wintery seasons when your mood, thinking, and behavior just seemed stuck. “Stuck” may mean you are really suffering and the pervasiveness and length of time for the depressive feelings is absolutely debilitating.

The reasons for SAD really are linked to the sun and our body’s reaction to a reduction in serotonin levels, the change in daylight hours and alterations in the body’s melatonin levels. All of these can cause moodiness, sleep changes, and emotional roller coaster reactions to work and relationships. Pleasurable activities and hobbies fall by the wayside and a cycle of sadness and unhappiness ensue.

True to our foundation for believing that people can and do recover from mental illnesses and that there is always hope, your team at Lake Behavioral Hospital reminds you that there are some things you can do to not be “SAD”.

  1. Know yourself
    Keep a journal; year to year and you may see similar dips in mood and activity. These patterns are letting you know that you may have SAD. If you are adding poor sleep patterns and isolation to the mix you are getting much closer to the reality that you’re not just lazy and unmotivated, you are struggling with a real health disorder. Remember this is not just an “off day”; look for daily feelings of sadness or feeling down. If your work/school, relationships, and interest in pleasurable activities is affected for two weeks, and beyond, take it seriously and don’t blame yourself! SAD can be a serious illness making one feel hopeless, helpless, and worthless, three feelings factors that can lead to suicidal thoughts and actions.
  2. Do something
    You can start with your doctor. Many primary care physicians are skilled in mental health concerns and will recognize SAD symptoms. He/she will help you identify the best mode of treatments and those can include talk therapies, light therapy, or medication.
  3. What works
    Seek the light; make every effort to be outside if the weather permits; even grayer days give some light that is beneficial to those with SAD. If natural light is unavailable or the weather is too brisk to enjoy, ask about light therapy and specialized lamps that can brighten your mood by increasing the release of melatonin in your body.Walk it out! Getting exercise has been known to improve both mood and outlook and may reduce the potential for winter weight gain which also has an impact on mood and overall health.

    Talk it out! Talk therapies are proven ways to help work through the feelings connected with SAD and alleviate some of the guilt that goes with a disorder that can make one feel so “off”, unmotivated and disconnected.

    Meditate your way through SAD: Meditation might not be the only answer to getting through the myriad SAD symptoms, but it can ease the stress of this common disorder.

    Let medication help: If a combination of the above doesn’t seem to provide relief, maybe medication will create an improved regulation of mood, behaviors and emotions.

At Lake Behavioral Hospital, positive mental health is our business. We can help in any season and specialize in the spectrum of mood and anxiety disorders, among other mental health conditions. It looks like winter will be around for a while longer. Don’t let SAD get you down. Please call us for a free, confidential mental health assessment at: 855-990-1900, 24/7/365. We are always here and ready to help. Walk-ins and appointments are accepted and we are in network with most insurances, including managed Medicaid plans, Medicare, Tri-Care and Wisconsin BadgerCare.

Lake Behavioral Hospital Celebrates Mental Health Pioneers in Black History

Culture is sustaining. Where we come from and the social mores of those who raised us creates a history for us. In America, and important to the time we live in now, is the idea that the culture and history each of us brings into our families, our places of work, and our communities is a beautiful blend of the best of all of us. Black History Month is an amazing celebration of the black culture and contributions of a broad base of people of color. From the Caribbean to the UK, to Africa, and the United States, Black History Month, the month of February, was so designated because it coincides with the birthdays of President Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglas. Both men, in their own way, worked to abolish slavery.

At Lake Behavioral, Chicago Behavioral and Silver Oaks, the deep traditions of our hospital system lies in healing and offering hope to those who are challenged with mental illness. The field of mental health has been enhanced and is yet another arena where history is rich with African American men and women who contributed to healing and hope for all people. Their advancements shine through the darkness of the stigma they lived to reduce a stigma associated with diseases of the brain-mental illness.

We are proud to celebrate Black History Month by featuring African American pioneers in mental health. Here are just a few:

  1. Solomon Fuller (1872-1953): Dr. Fuller was the very first African American psychiatrist recognized by the American Psychiatric Association. His work explored and changed the very foundation of knowledge relative to neurodegenerative brain diseases; specifically, Alzheimer’s. His work also included studies on schizophrenia and manic depression.
  2. Francis Sumner is referred to as the Father of Black Psychology. He was the first African American to be conferred with a PhD in psychology.
  3. Inez Beverly Prosser (1897-1934): She found her passion as a PhD in psychology, and studied self-esteem among African American middle school children.
  4. Herman George Canady (1901-1970): He explored social bias in IQ testing and in a multitude of segregation and employment discrimination cases he served as an expert witness for the NAACP.
  5. Mamie Phipps Clark (1917-1983) and Kenneth Bancroft Clark (1914-2008): They were most recognized for the “Doll Test” whereby the psychological toll of segregation on African American children became evident. This groundbreaking study lead to the declaration of segregation of schools to be unconstitutional.
  6. Moxie Clarence Maultsby, Jr. (1932-2016): He is the founder of Rational Behavior Therapy.
  7. Joseph L. White (1932-2017): This African American challenged mainstream psychology by identifying discriminatory practices and finalized the important and deserved representation of black clinicians in the American Psychological Association.
  8. Robert Lee Williams (1930-2020): His work included the Black Intelligence Test of Cultural Homogeneity and he penned the term ”Ebonics”.
  9. Beverly Daniel Tatum (1954-present): President of Spellman College until 2015, Ms. Tatum studied racial identity and race in education.

The efforts of the African American men and women listed here is just a sampling of the contributions made in our society to end stigma for a culture and for those with mental health conditions. The month of February marks Black History Month. It is a testament for how the richness of culture has created a meaningful impact and a strengthening for all people through the exploration of mental illness.

Article written with information about these pioneers in African American History from Alexis Anderson and Barry Wallace, Jr.

Striving for Feelings of Gratitude

By Dr. Charla Waxman BS, MBA, EdD

During this tumultuous year, it may be difficult to think about feelings of thankfulness and gratitude. There is no question; it has been a rough year. A year filled with many anxiety-producing situations, many of them that directly affected us, yet were seemingly out of our control.

There is a solution to feelings, but not always to the things that cause them; but feelings can be managed. There is real science behind striving for feelings of gratitude. Research at Harvard, Yale, and even the US Army among countless other medical and psychiatric settings, all point to how being thankful and finding gratitude, especially during tough times, offers improved thinking, focus, and physical health.

Gratitude on a daily basis, not just occasionally or if something great happens, is the key. Look for the little things: be thankful for a bird feeder full of birds to watch, a great tasting treat, or even having a short drive-thru line at your local coffee shop. Taking the time to journal gratitude moments and to get in the gratitude habit can significantly increase physical and mental well-being and overall life satisfaction.

Tap into gratitude and make it work for you. Start the practice of gratitude now and keep it going! Encourage others to do the same. It works!

  1. Go back in time. Remember the things in the past that made you smile. Think about old friends, holidays, activities, jokes and conversations.
  2. Be gratitude specific. Look for things in the present that make you feel grateful. Bring as much detail into your thought or writing as you can. “I am grateful for my friends” is great, but who and why are the extended questions that you should answer for yourself.
  3. Look around you. Are there things that you have not recognized as gratitude-producing? Be thankful for those things: things in your home, your neighborhood, your community and globally. Stretch your gratitude muscles.
  4. Schedule time for your new habit. Just like with any new habit or process, it can fall apart quickly without consistency. Maybe while your head is still on the pillow and before you put your feet on the floor, you can connect with a gratitude moment. Find other times in your day when you can add in gratitude.
  5. Tell someone else. Invite a friend, family member, or coworker to join in. The more the merrier! Listening to others will generate excitement about being grateful and help identify new things that define gratitude.

Many other ideas for gratitude habits are out there! Googling gratitude will provide a host of fun journals and many books to get started making gratitude work for you. Consider writing letters of gratitude to those who have made a difference to you. Start a gratitude box and put your written thoughts there once a day. Review them from time to time.

Whatever you are willing to do, make it happen. There really is science behind it. Being grateful; walking in gratitude can absolutely be life enhancing.

We know you are grateful for the times in your life when you have felt supported and cared for. At Lake Behavioral Hospital, it is our mission to provide care and support for those living with mental illness just when it is needed most. If you or a loved one need help 24/7/365, we are available to take your call. Contact us at 855-990-1900 for a free and confidential, level of care assessment.

Women, Trauma and Mental Health

Trauma: an event that can occur in anyone’s life that can cause physical, emotional and spiritual pain. For women, the numbers of occurrences are staggering.

  • The prevalence of serious mental illness is almost 70% greater in men than women (Anxiety Depression Association of America).
  • Exposure to violence makes a woman 3-4 times more likely to become depressed (National Institute on Mental Health).
  • Women are more likely to experience Post Traumatic Stress Disorder than men and then wait longer than men after symptoms arise to seek treatment (World Health Organization).
  • The stigma for seeking treatment is greater among women of color (John Hopkins).

Women who have experienced trauma like physical, emotional or verbal abuse and who do not receive professional support are often at a much higher risk of developing mental health conditions. These can include: depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, even an eating disorder, substance use, self-injury or suicidal thoughts.

It is not just abuse that can cause trauma and impact mental health. Women in the military who have been through the devastation of war and who are isolated from family friends, and even pets, may begin to feel depressed and anxious. These symptoms may arise during or after a return from military locations.

COVID 19 has caused countless people to turn to substance use to thwart anxiety from loneliness, financial concerns, the death of a loved one or the worry of becoming ill. Depression and anxiety or exacerbated illnesses like Obsessive Convulsive Disorder are all on the rise at this time.

An accident, the shock of the death of a loved one, or a serious medical condition can also cause someone to lapse into depressed feelings, loss of hope and feeling like giving up. Panic disorders are often linked to anxiety caused by any of the incidents listed.

Recognizing the effects of trauma is not always easy. Women are especially likely to just look past the symptoms and continue to care for others and go on with their busy lives. Trauma may affect someone long after the actual event and can include feelings of panic, sleeplessness, anger episodes, lack of interest in activities that used to be pleasurable, increased substance use, and overall sadness. The longer the symptoms linger, the harder it can be to recover.

The sooner any person can reach for help from trauma, the sooner he/she can get better and feel better. Talk therapy, medication, or a combination of both with education and skill development can make all the difference.

Both men and women can get the help they need at Lake Behavioral Hospital. Women needing support for trauma, perinatal mood disorders, or life’s challenges can receive the help they need in either an acute inpatient setting or in our Intensive Outpatient Program. The Women’s Connection Program, provided as inpatient care, offers special gender-specific groups, activities, and a specially individualized discharge plan. Healing and recovery are possible. Please call your team at Lake Behavioral Hospital for more information or to make a referral at 855-990-1900.

What is Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD?

The leaves are already falling, mornings are cooler, and it is dark earlier. That can mean only one thing; Fall and winter are approaching.

Some people are energized by the fall and look forward to winter sports, hot chocolate, and warm evenings by a fire. Others dread the seasons of shorter days and harsh weather. Some may even say it is gloomy and intolerable; that it is downright depressing and puts them in a grumpy mood.

2020 (what a year!) brings with it much more than shorter days, moodiness, and bad weather. We are in the middle of a pandemic with the threat of an even heavier resurgence of COVID 19. As if Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is not enough, some of us will be dealing with the high anxiety of a worrisome flu year.

If SAD has already been a part of your life, this flu season and a pandemic may only make things feel worse. The isolation of inclement weather may be accentuated by not being outdoors or with neighbors, friends and family for long stretches of time. Indoor confinement and true social isolation bring about unexpected levels of depression, anger, and anxiety.

There is hope!

You know the season is coming. Preparation will be the key to a SAD strategy. Be proactive! Here are some ideas for a personal attack against SAD:

Journal: Stay connected to your feelings and start now! If you see yourself starting to fade into sadness, make social connections, exercise, or begin a routine of reading motivational books and quotes.

Spend some money: Not on just anything! Consider buying a SAD therapeutic light. Many find this makes a big difference for them.

Get outside: Bundle up and get out there. Maybe someone in your neighborhood could use a walk-buddy! Even putting on warm clothes and sitting outside on your deck could help.

LAUGH: Look for funny movies or YouTube videos that make you laugh. Laughter is a big healer!

Help someone: Make a point of helping someone else who is struggling. Get out of your own thoughts by reaching out. Helping others helps us.

Get help now: Start talking to a therapist who can help you get on top of SAD; before it even really starts. A therapist will be able to help you become more self-aware and support you during the tougher days.

Connect: Many churches are providing virtual meetings and services. It is a great way to learn and grow spiritually. Many church groups also provide shut-in support and support is almost always free to all.

Know the warning signs. Here are some ways you may be able to recognize SAD:

  • More sleeping than usual at many times of the day.
  • Overeating and eating foods that are not usual for you (e.g. sweets and carbs).
  • Disinterest in hobbies.
  • Lack of desire to do much of anything.
  • Frustration over little things; or downright anger.
  • Overall stretches of sadness that are hard to get through.

This pandemic has intensified many psychiatric disorders for many people. You are not alone if you are feeling less well emotionally.

You also have Lake Behavioral Hospital 24/7/365. By walk-in, appointment, or just give us call, your Lake Behavioral Assessment and Referral team will help support you when you feel like SAD or any other mental health concern is just too much to bear. A level of care assessment provided by our licensed professionals will determine what level of treatment is best to move you toward improved mental health. To learn more or to get the help you need right now call: 855-990-1900.

Suicide Prevention is Possible

People who are feeling suicidal are often dealing with feelings or situations so intense, there seems to be no other way out. The truth is most feelings and most situations, no matter how distressing, will pass in time. Many who express a desire to die are overwhelmed. Given a chance to have a good listener by their side who will not only listen, but make that important referral for professional help, there is an opportunity to make a life-saving difference.

Prevention means being informed and being able to recognize the signs of suicide. These can include:

  • Talking about death or suicide
  • Feeling hopeless, helpless, or worthless
  • Feeling like he/she is a burden to others
  • Withdrawal from friends, family, or social activities
  • Moodiness, or an increase in sadness, or even anger
  • Finding ways to say goodbye
  • Giving away loved possessions

If your friend or a family member talks about suicide, take every threat seriously. Spoken threats are often ways to ask for help. The person speaking may just need someone to reach out in a non-judgmental way. He/She may be in emotional pain that is so severe, that although they do not really want to die, there is no way to express the intensity of their feelings.

Don’t be afraid to ask, “Are you thinking about suicide?” This question is important to understanding what they are really thinking. Don’t worry. Research shows that asking the question will not cause someone to consider suicide. In fact, people are often relieved the question has been asked and they can freely talk about their feelings. Please don’t leave anyone alone who may be suicidal. Never keep suicide threats a secret.

One of the most important ways to prevent suicide is to seek professional help. Know your community. A call to the National Suicide Hot Line at 1 800 273 TALK (8255) can make a difference and save a life.

And, of course, call upon the skilled professionals at Lake Behavioral Hospital to provide help. We are available 24/7/365 to offer caring support for those in a mental health crisis. Call 855 990 1900.

Lake Behavioral Hospital is a proud sponsor of the Lake County Suicide Prevention Task Force Suicide Prevention Walk on September 19, 2020. We hope to see you there.

Summertime is Here!

July 4th, picnics, and outdoor gatherings are earmarks of summertime. This means being with people that we care about. Quarantining during COVID-19 among small family groups may mean that we haven’t seen our friends and other family members for some time. This is something we all need, to connect with others. Getting together during a pandemic, requires us to wear masks and to practice social distancing. How unnatural it seems not to hug our friends or family in greeting or not even be able to see a shared smile because of a mask. Socialization is important for our self-esteem. When we feel more supported, we are happier and mentally healthier. This summer may mean finding ways to be socially distant and safe, but stay connected.

 

Here are five tips to help you stay connected:

  1. If you can’t have a picnic or party, send some picnic items to friends or family to put a smile on their face!
  2. Decorate your front yard or doorstep for a drive by experience and give special treats to people who are special to you.
  3. Although July 4th– and summer- are not “card” holidays, send greeting cards to those you won’t see this year.
  4. Make your small family gatherings fun with special games or conversation starters.
  5. Get creative and host a virtual party with Zoom or another online platform.

 

Being creative during these uncertain times can help alleviate stress and anxiety. If at any time, these feelings overwhelm you or a loved one, Lake Behavioral can help.

We offer free assessments 24 hours a day, 7 days a week by calling 855-990-1900 or visiting us at 2615 Washington Street in Waukegan, IL.

Lake Behavioral Celebrates Pride

June is Pride Month and Lake Behavioral Hospital is proud to celebrate and support the LGBTQ community. We also understand the unique challenges and needs they face related to mental health and access to treatment. Studies show that individuals who identify as LGBTQ are more likely to experience depression, anxiety, substance use disorders, and other mental health conditions. LGBTQ individuals also experience more trauma and other impactful adverse life experiences due to stigma and discrimination, which can trigger or exacerbate mental health conditions.

Stigma can create conditions under which LGBTQ-identifying people need to seek mental health care. It can also hinder their ability to access the care and treatment they need. Surveys indicate that more than half of LGBTQ respondents have experienced healthcare providers denying care, using harsh language, or blaming their sexual orientation or gender identity as the cause for an illness. As a result, many individuals avoid or delay seeking treatment and withhold information from health care providers due to fear of discrimination or disrespect.

Our team at Lake Behavioral Hospital knows that when people can be themselves, believe in themselves, and be proud of who they are that they are genuinely more mentally healthy. We can only influence health if we continue to educate ourselves and be sensitive to the individual needs of the people we serve. Every day our treatment team seeks to help and serve those on their journey to self-acceptance and self-pride.

Lake Behavioral Hospital is an inclusive environment. During Pride Month, we want to say thank you to those within the LGBTQ community who pave the way every day. You have shown pride as you have made it clear that it is the strength of our character, the way we treat others, and our sense of hope that is the foundation for authenticity.

Lake Behavioral Hospital offers support on both an inpatient and outpatient setting for adolescents, adults, and senior adults.

Free assessments are offered 24 hours a day, 7 days a week by calling 855-990-1900.

New Lake Behavioral Hospital Now Open

Waukegan Mayor Tours Brand New Lake Behavioral Hospital