Valentine’s Day: A Good Day for Good Mental Health

Candy, flowers, cards and a special someone on your arm as you walk into a fancy restaurant for a delicious Valentine’s Day celebration is the perfect picture. Social media posts are highlight reels of the very best of times: all smiles and happy moments. These flawless pictures, frozen in time, can lead to pressure and sadness for some who just can’t seem to “fill the big shoes” of the perfect Valentine.

Let this Valentine’s Day be the most relaxed and enjoyable ever. Set some priorities and just have fun. Celebrate with people who matter to you. Make “celebrate” a word that doesn’t mean spending lots of money. Celebrate at home, order some great take-out and watch an old movie. Enjoy your Valentine’s Day as a family. Make cookies together. Have surprise grab bags at each place setting at dinner (love those dollar store gifts!). Have a candy heart race (find it online, it is fun!).

Be a difference-making Valentine! Send cards and letters to friends and family. Drop off cookies to neighbors. Just let people know you care. Have fun with the kids’ Valentine cards; they are very reasonably priced and come in themes. Consider dropping those off at nursing homes, homeless shelters, and food pantries. Someone will appreciate being thought of on Valentine’s Day.

Positive mental health is important. Just being you, surrounding yourself with people who make you feel special, and doing things you love and finding ways to give back are all ways to make this Valentine’s Day, positively healthy!

Your team at Lake Behavioral Hospital wishes you love, caring and compassion on Valentine’s Day. If you find yourself struggling with feelings of isolation and sadness, you know you can call us. By appointment or as a walk-in, you can ask for a free, confidential assessment. This will help you determine just what level of care and support will make things feel better for you. Calling 855-990-1900, will connect you with a caring professional. Call; we can help.

Black History Month Facts

February is Black History Month. Each February offers us an opportunity to learn about the contributions of African Americans to our nation. The theme for 2023 is Black Health and Wellness where we specifically honor African Americans in the medical and healthcare arena.

The beginnings of Black History Month began as a result of Carter G. Woodson, who has been given the title of the “Father of Black History”. By 1926, he was working to make sure that there was a designation of time for Black History. Negro History Week, was the first real focus on black culture and honors for black efforts in all areas across the United States. Black History Month morphed from Negro History Week.

It took 50 years for Black History Month to be formally recognized. Gerald R. Ford called upon our nation’s citizens to recognize “the neglected accomplishments of Black Americans.” Barack Obama reiterated and re-established the importance of experiencing Black History Month as a way of strengthening America.

February was chosen as Black History month as it contains the birthdays of both Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglas. This seemed the perfect month to celebrate both emancipation and the accomplishments of African Americans past and present.

Here are some ways to learn and grow in your knowledge of the influence and impact of African Americans:

  1. Read or listen to the amazing stories on black history through National Public Radio.
  2. Visit your local bookstore; most have special displays on black history.
  3. Just Google it! Read up on historical black figures.
  4. Listen to famous speeches by a host of black Americans throughout our history.
  5. Use your library to select books that you can share as a family.
  6. Volunteer in the name of Black History Month and begin a tradition of honoring those who have made a difference in the face of incredible challenges and adversity.

Make Black History Month purposeful and meaningful for you and your family.

The Holidays Can Be Challenging

For those impacted by mental illness, the holidays can be especially challenging. Being away from regular routines, having the temptations of unhealthy eating or drinking, memories of loss and other traumas and high expectations can create stress that can seem insurmountable.

According to a study by NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 64% of those with a mental illness identified the holidays as seeming to make their mental health condition worse. Although the holidays are exciting and joy-filled times for some, others feel lonely and anxious. Depression can weigh heavy on people who cannot seem to connect with others or whose support systems are not as accessible during the holiday season. For someone with mental illness, this can be the perfect storm for difficulties maintaining positive mental health.

Here are some ways to make the holidays easier:

  1. Easy does it! If you can limit time at parties, letting the hosts know ahead of time, you can reduce some stress for yourself. If you are the host, plan on “less than perfect” and try to have fun. Invite those who bring you joy and are supportive. You don’t have to schedule something every day. A few days just for you, may be just what you need to regroup from activity-filled days.
  2. Accept that the holidays are different for you than some others you may know. You probably know your triggers. With this information in mind, you can prepare for additional counseling support before the holidays so you can be ready with coping skills and ideas for managing your feelings.
  3. Start a gratitude tradition. Begin the holiday with cards or letters thanking special people for all the ways they have supported you through the year and all the ways they have helped you be your best. Gratitude is healing and can actually improve both physical and mental health. Your gratitude letters may also encourage people to support you even more through the holidays.
  4. Routines can help. Create a holiday calendar so things are not left undone and so you can clearly see whether you are sliding into a holiday habit of over-booking. Remember saying no is ok. Maybe you can say no to something now and book it for after the holiday. This may help you avoid the holiday let down of having nothing to do after all the excitement of the season ends.
  5. Keep in mind that you can only be in charge of you and your own behavior. You cannot control, nor are you responsible for the behavior of others. Limit your time with those who create difficulties for you. Keep yourself healthy by creating healthy boundaries.
  6. To be healthy, you must “do” healthy. Eat well, sleep enough, exercise, connect with support or a faith-based community, avoid drugs or alcohol and be honest with yourself about how you are feeling.
  7. Don’t discount the benefits of professional support. When things overwhelm you and it begins to impact work/school, relationships or how you manage your day, perhaps a wellness check would be a good choice.

Overall, the holidays should be a joy-filled time of the year. By putting some of these suggestions into place, you may just find that you are having a good time, creating new, fun memories and looking forward to next year.

If you are finding that the holidays are painful times, please don’t suffer through it alone and without support. Let the caring and professional team at Lake Behavioral Hospital help you by providing a free, confidential assessment that will determine a level of support that will meet you where you are at in this moment and time. Call us 24/7/365 at 855-990-1900. We are here to help.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Breast Cancer Awareness. Those three words strike you differently if you have ever had breast cancer. Often what you live with is the constant post-traumatic stress of its potential return. The fear that cancer might return can produce debilitating anxiety and depression.

Since we all deal with feelings differently, the way we respond to the feelings that can go with a cancer diagnosis can differ greatly. Some of us seek support. More of us try to tough it out, hiding behind a cheerful and grateful mask. Sometimes anger at our circumstances and feeling isolated, lonely, and scared overwhelms us.

Regardless of how we manage feelings, our work and personal lives may begin to suffer under the stress and anxiety that any cancer diagnosis may bring. The team at Lake Behavioral Hospital is available to help. One call will connect you with professionals who understands how difficult these feelings can be. A free, confidential assessment will identify the level of care you need to get through tough times. Please call 855-990-1900. We are available 24 hours a day. We are here for you.

Lake Behavioral Hospital Launches New Virtual Evening Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP)

Lake Behavioral Hospital now offers virtual evening intensive outpatient groups. The program is offered Monday through Thursday from 5:00pm to 8:00pm via a secure telehealth platform. The intensive outpatient program (IOP) at Lake Behavioral Hospital is designed to help individuals who require more support than traditional weekly outpatient therapy. Participants benefit from group therapy facilitated by a licensed mental health therapist. Therapeutic groups focus on identifying triggers, developing coping skills and self-awareness, and encouraging peer support.

Lake Behavioral Hospital continues to offer morning in-person IOP services as well. For more information about programs at Lake Behavioral Hospital or to schedule an assessment, please call our 24/7 assessment and referral team at (855) 990-1900.

Dealing with Holiday Stress

The holidays are, for many, a time of joy and excitement. But sometimes, this time of the year can be one of dread due to the amount of stress and anxiety it can produce. The reasons are many, and the outcome can be significant.

Causes for stress, anxiety, and depression during the holidays can range from past memories of happier times, personal loss, weather-related depression, lack of support through the season, unrealistic expectations, finances, and things like weight gain, substance use, and family conflict. All aspects of one’s life can be affected: work, activities of daily living, and relationships. Some of this may occur for a short duration, and other stresses or their impact may last long term.

As with anything, a little self-awareness can go a long way. Working to understand that we can’t do everything and please everybody (easier said than done!) might be the beginning of less stress. Accepting that we are not always in control of how things work out and how other people feel can be useful to release some holiday worries. Other tips for feeling better during the holidays include:

  1. Keep your normal routines. Do things that are comfortable and familiar.
  2. Accept some feelings of sadness and anxiety. Know that these are temporary, and you will probably feel better when the holidays are over.
  3. Spend time with people who are affirming and enjoyable.
  4. Manage your time and be ready to say no when things get to be too much.
  5. Try not to overdo food or drink.
  6. Do things that relax you during non-holiday times: read, listen to music, take walks, or engage in hobbies.
  7. Rely on your faith-based community.
  8. Volunteer and give back. Be grateful. Make a gratitude list.

Get ready for the holidays. Chances are that some of the same things create stress each year. Plan ahead and put things in place to reduce the stress and put your supports in place as early as possible. Set priorities and let others know what they are. This may mean things like having no-alcohol celebrations, pre-arranged budgets for gifts, or saying no to traveling. Reduce time on social media where everything is perfect and what is shared may only be a glimpse of what is real.

Pay attention, though. If feelings of stress, depression, or anxiety do not seem to subside after the holidays, seeking professional support may be in order. If you are living with mental illness, take care to maintain your health supports during the season. You already know that maintaining medication routines and attending support groups and meetings make a difference. Stay on track in your recovery. If you can’t seem to regroup, seek additional help. A free and confidential assessment may be what you need to understand if treatment for a mental health condition is needed. Call Lake Behavioral Hospital for some holiday or post-holiday help. We are waiting to help you. Our team is available 24/7 at 855-990-1900.

Teens and Mental Health

Never before has mental health had such a globally collective impact for all ages. The pandemic has proven that mental health is not something to be ignored, and, in fact we need to especially safeguard mental health in our kids.

Think about it, the pandemic caused an incredible amount of disarray in the way our kids receive support overall. Schools shut down and our kids lost the haven of protection and observation that schools are for kids. Supportive and trained professionals that “keep an eye” on our kids tried to help our kids via zoom or tele-school services. This is not the same as an in-person discussion about mental health or a face to face check-in to see how a child is doing. Kids also lost lots of peer connections during the pandemic and socializing is such an important part for this age group. In addition, parents who used the socialization techniques and peer connections to gauge health in their kids were not able to make comparisons and, thus, parents may have missed some issues of dishealth as their kids isolated more or kept to themselves during pandemic downtime.

Mental health is absolutely crucial for overall health. When kids understand mental health and their own special needs, kids are much more likely to be resilient and get through the tough times and milestones in life.

As always, parents play a key role in every aspect of teen development and positive well-being. In the Illinois School Youth Survey, parents were documented by kids as the most important people in their lives when it came to supporting them during challenging times. Parents who are in the know about mental health and teens would naturally do the following to help kids become their happiest and healthiest:

  1. Get ready for tough talks. One of the toughest of talks is about substance use. Teens’ developing brains never need substances to offset stress. The earlier teens use drugs or alcohol, the more chances they take to have trouble using substances as a coping tool into their future. Sometimes when parents confront use and experimentation, teens turn things around and ask about parental use as teens. It’s probably best if you plan for this talk. Don’t get caught off guard. Decide how you plan to talk to your child. In the meantime, know that they may be offering this turn-the-tables tactic to avoid talking about what is real and in the moment. Stay on task, parents, stay in control of the conversation. Provide a message of abstinence and drive home the message of future health.
  2. Talk about responsibilities and expectations before they are broken. Consistent rules, discussed beforehand will make the challenging times easier.
  3. If there are behaviors that are worrying you with your teen, call it out. Be honest and clear. Here’s the caveat: watch how you do it. Talk that sounds blaming or angry isn’t going to create dialogue. Saying, “I’m concerned” is the best place to start.

If during your talk, your teen asks for help or admits to feeling worried about their health; know that you have clearly done your job as a parent. Now you have to kick it into “I can help” mode, stay calm and press forward. Here are some ways to let your teen know that they have brought a concern to the right place:

  • Listening means listening: not talking, not interrupting, not offering solutions. LISTENING! Stay focused; put away your phone and be in the moment.
  • Remember that, many experiences as a teen is a “first”. First love, first time to experience peer pressure, first job, first poor grade at school, first argument with a friend…. PHEW! Imagine going through your day with no base of experience to compare to what just happened to you. As an awesome parent, try hard not to trivialize what you know is a “first” reaction. Ask questions and show interest. No need to offer comparisons of when you were a teen, unless they ask.
  • Always ask what they think they might want to have happen; what are their ideas for solutions. Ask if you can offer a solution or idea you might have. If your solution causes your teen to bristle, step back. You can talk about what was upsetting or you can come back to your idea at another time. Stay parental. If your child is a danger to themselves or others, if you are worried, a visit to a professional may be just what is needed to help everyone feel better.

If your teen is struggling with anxiety, depression, anger, or substances, stay in it and get help when you need it. Make mental health a priority. Parents know their kids. If something seems off-kilter, it probably is.

Rely on your “gut” as a parent and rely on Lake Behavioral Hospital for any additional support you may need. The team at Lake Behavioral Hospital is a phone call away. We can provide a free, level of care assessment for a teen, or any family member in mental health distress. Call 855-990-1900.

Lake Behavioral Hospital Recognizes National Suicide Prevention Awareness Week

This week in September is dedicated as Suicide Prevention Awareness Week. It’s a time to pay attention to what you can do to make a difference. Everyone can help prevent suicide. First, let’s just look at what it means to be “suicidal”. Being suicidal means that someone has an idea or ideas about ending their life; hurting themselves in a way that will cause death. Many people who are suicidal have lost hope for finding solutions for the things that are causing them to consider ending their life.

You could be their solution.

There are some things you need to know and some things you can do to help. Here is some information and some ways you can take action.

Things to know:

  1. Take every threat of suicide seriously.
  2. If someone is giving their important and loved items away, this could be because they are considering suicide.
  3. Having a plan like time/date or clear ideas about how to end their life is a crisis.
  4. Any talk about suicide needs more discussion.
  5. Drugs and alcohol can make things seem worse than they are and can lead to thoughts that are suicidal.
  6. Depression, anxiety and other mental health conditions can lead to suicidal thinking.
  7. Someone who feels hopeless, helpless and worthless may also be considering suicide.
  8. Isolating and pulling away from friends and family may mean someone is feeling depressed and could be suicidal.
  9. Not everyone who is sad or depressed is suicidal, but everyone needs someone to talk to about their feelings.
  10. Talking to someone about suicide does not cause them to consider suicide. Most often they are relieved that someone is willing to listen.

Things to do:

  1. Find a Mental Health First Aid, or QPR course in your area to learn more about how to help.
  2. Talk openly and honestly about what you think someone may be considering: Ask Directly: Are you thinking of killing yourself? Are you thinking of suicide?
  3. Ask more questions about their plans and things they may have considered.
  4. Stay with the person; don’t leave or ask them to promise to stay safe and end the meeting until another time or day.
  5. If drugs or alcohol are in the picture, things can get worse fast! Call 911.
  6. Ask if you can call another friend, family member, or counselor that they feel can help support them in the crisis.
  7. Just listen. Let the person know they are important. Try to get another person to work with you as you help. Two brains are always better than one!
  8. Pay attention. Check in on people you know. Ask how they are doing and feeling.
  9. Always remember there are people who can help you be a helper. You never have to be alone in offering support.
  10. Keep numbers for crisis hotlines like 1-800-273-TALK or text lines like texting HELP to 741741 available. These are trained professionals who can support you in helping someone be safe.

If you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health crisis, look to Lake Behavioral Hospital for a free level of care assessment to help determine what kind of support you need to feel better. One call to 855-990-1900 at any time, 24/7/365, will get you moving in the right direction.

Back-to-School Advice for Parents: Dealing with Teens and Drugs

School is back in session. Teens are back with their friends after a year of isolation from peers and normal school routines. You may be worried that your teen will “cut loose” having missed so much social time. Maybe you have even forgotten how to talk about really difficult subjects because having them home more during COVID, it just didn’t seem like you had as much to worry about. Well, parents, it’s back to some of the tough talks. For some, any subject is a tough subject. Past experiences and blow-ups over touchy topics may be in your memory bank. You may have been surprised at your teens negative reaction to something, that seemed to you like no big deal. Enter the need to talk about drugs and alcohol: parental panic! Although these talks can be difficult, they are definitely necessary. Don’t dodge ‘em; talking it out will make a difference.

Talking to your children, even when they resist, according to research, has an impact. Groups like SAMSHA and NIMH tell us that talking with your kids can even mean that your kids will choose not to use. Here are some things to keep in mind about tough talks on drugs and alcohol:

Start talking and keep talking! Let your children know what is important to you and be a great role model. Share factual information. We are never too young or too old to learn. The earlier you start, the better.

Be Consistent. Connect with groups in your child’s school who know the ins and outs of social norming. This framework of drug and alcohol information helps remind kids that “not everybody is doing it”. Be adamant about a message that tells your kids that substances and a developing brain are not a good match.

Find Your Balance. Have fun with your kids: prank joke and tease, but when it comes to substance use there’s no joking around. If you have stories of your youth and substance use, maybe those stories can be put aside. Providing the right message at all times, is the best way to let your teens know that you care about their health and safety. Talk with your partner or spouse about how you might handle a situation where your child has experimented with a substance. Waiting until something happens and when you are upset will not be the time to make a decision about a consequence or how to manage it. Prepare yourself for questions about your own use or past behaviors.

Use the News! If you hear of an incident at school or in your local community related to substances you have the perfect opportunity to talk and, more importantly, listen to your child. We all appreciate having our opinions valued. Remember that your child will appreciate it, too.

Get involved. Many schools and community groups are invested in making sure kids are healthy. Find a group that focuses on substance use and abuse. You can learn a lot and show your child just how much this topic matters to you.

Be informed and pay attention! Being a teen can mean changing by the minute. Mood, relationships, and attitudes about what’s important in a teens life can be very volatile. Watch for changes that seem different for your child. There is nothing better than parent intuition; rely on your gut feeling. If something feels wrong or out of place, it probably is. Look for physical changes like: red eyes, slurred speech, or lack of coordination. Look for mood changes: lack of interest in things that they used to enjoy, anger, depression, or hyperactivity. Look for behaviors that worry you: grades slipping, friends changing, items in the child’s room that you haven’t seen before (strange wrappings, pipes, clothing with burn holes, or paraphernalia), missed curfews and any secret behaviors with phones, who they are spending time with, or where they are going.

Don’t be an island. If you are concerned about your child or have suspicions of substance use, turn to a professional for support. You never have to be alone. There are professionals waiting for your call at Lake Behavioral Hospital. One call to 855-990-1900 can create an appointment for a free assessment which will determine the best course of action for what may be troubling your child. Serving kids 13 years old and up, our evidence-based programs may be just what your child needs.

Empathy is Key at Lake Behavioral Hospital

Empathy is life changing. Even more, empathy and empathic behaviors are as life-changing for the giver as they are for the receiver.

Empathy is the ability to recognize and share the feelings of another person. It is walking in someone else’s shoes. Empathy is the deepest possible understanding and acknowledgement of how someone is feeling and experiencing a moment in time. There can be no judgment. There can be no hurried response. There can only be compassion.

Compassion is empathy put into play; it is the action element of empathy.

At Lake Behavioral Hospital, empathy is our key to our patients finding health. Our daily philosophy of care means that patient experience comes first. Our goal is to serve our patients with gratitude. To do this, we need to build empathy bridges between ourselves and our patients — to directly engage and identify with what it means to be a person living with mental illness.

At Lake Behavioral Hospital, we want to serve adults and adolescents with the most caring perspective; helping them heal and then leave our programs more connected, more connecting, and certainly, more empathic.