Thanksgiving During a Pandemic: We Can Still Be Grateful

Thanksgiving is a time to reflect on the things we are grateful for. As Thanksgiving approaches during this strange and often stressful year, it may be challenging to tap into our gratitude. For many of us, the holidays will look vastly different than they ever have before. Large gatherings and travel will be canceled or postponed. We will forgo in-person visits with family members, especially those who are older or medically fragile. And we may already be mourning the loss of those with whom we will not spend another holiday. But this Thanksgiving, gratitude is more important than ever.

Robert Emmons is one of the world’s leading scientific experts on gratitude. His definition of gratitude consists of two parts: an awareness of goodness in the world, and an acknowledgement that the source of this goodness is outside of ourselves. We experience gratitude when we perceive and appreciate the positive aspects of life. Gratitude does not minimize or ignore the hardships and complications of life; it simply calls us to recognize the goodness that exists.

Research on gratitude has shown that people who regularly practice gratitude experience improvements in their physical, psychological, and social well-being. These benefits include:

  • Stronger immune systems
  • Fewer aches and pains
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Better sleep
  • Increased feelings of joy, optimism, and happiness
  • Being more helpful, generous, and compassionate
  • Decreased depression
  • Feeling less lonely and isolated
  • Reduced stress

Here are a few ways that you can practice gratitude this holiday season:

  • Keep a gratitude journal. Take a moment each day to jot down a few things you are thankful for.
  • Share your gratitude. Reach out to friends, family, or others to express your gratitude. Write a letter, make a call, or send a text to let them know you’re thankful for them.
  • Reframe the negative. Find the good in some of life’s less exciting moments by changing your perspective. An example of this is trading “I have to” with “I get to”.
  • Cultivate generosity. This could mean donating time, money, or other resources. It could also include being generous with your kindness and compassion.

Gratitude builds resilience. Practicing gratitude trains our brains to see the good and nurtures our ability to adapt and cope with stress. Resilience also means reaching out when you need help. Chicago Behavioral Hospital offers help 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Our clinical programs provide treatment for depression, anxiety, substance use, and other mental health conditions. Call us at 844-756-8600.

Managing Health-Related Anxiety during Flu Season and COVID-19

With flu season looming and the COVID-19 pandemic still present, it is no surprise that more people are experiencing anxiety about their health. The symptoms of COVID-19 are similar to symptoms of other illnesses, like allergies and influenza. This can provoke a great deal of confusion and anxiety. As we return to school, work, and other activities that may make us more susceptible to germs and illness, it may feel like every little sneeze or cough could signal something worse.

Here are some ways to keep yourself healthy and manage anxiety about your health:

Seek information from reliable sources, such as the CDC and WHO, which provide ongoing updates about best practices to stay safe and healthy.

Get a flu vaccine. Even if you are in contact with fewer people than usual, physicians recommend getting your flu shot. Flu vaccines are widely available, often at no cost, through a primary care physician, walk-in clinic, or pharmacy. Vaccine Finder

Continue to follow guidelines and recommendations that work to reduce the spread of illness, particularly COVID-19. These guidelines include: practicing proper hand hygiene, maintaining social distance of 6 feet or more, and wearing face coverings in public places or when social distancing is difficult to maintain.

Be aware of new or unusual symptoms. If you know that you typically develop a runny nose, congestion, or sore throat due to fall allergies, these symptoms may not be cause for concern. If you notice new or different symptoms, such as fever, shortness of breath, or loss of taste or smell, it may be time to call your doctor.

When in doubt, consult a physician. Many clinics are offering phone or video consultations that allow you to have a conversation about your concerns without traveling to them.

Take care of yourself. Proper nutrition, sleep hygiene, and physical activity are important parts of taking care of your physical and mental health. Consider getting outside, too. Fresh air and sunshine can boost your mood, and vitamin D from the sun helps strengthen your immune system.

Seek social connection and support. Research shows that social support reduces the negative effects of anxiety, depression, stress and other health problems. Talk to friends or family about how you are feeling. You may also consider seeking professional help if your anxiety persists.

Chicago Behavioral Hospital is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to provide support to those struggling with anxiety or other issues related to mental health and substance use. Assessments are free and confidential. Call us at 844-756-8600.

The Opioid Crisis & the Pandemic

During this unprecedented time, it has never been more important to understand and recognize the mental health needs of ourselves and those around us. In recognition of World Mental Health Day, observed on October 10th, Chicago Behavioral Hospital has partnered with MaineStay Youth & Family Services, the Park Ridge Opioid Advisory Group, and the Park Ridge Community Health Commission to offer a free webinar entitled “Opioid Crisis and the Pandemic”. This presentation will include a panel of local experts who will discuss topics related to the use and misuse of opioids before and during the COVID-19 pandemic. Opioid use and overdose deaths continue to rise during the pandemic. Learn about the nature of addiction, the etiology of opioid misuse, contributing factors, and available treatment options.

Registration Link:

Chicago Behavioral Hospital offers complete mental health and chemical dependency treatment for adolescents, adults, and senior adults. This includes medical detox from opiates, alcohol, and benzodiazepines. We offer free consultations 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

For more information please call 844-756-8600

Teens & the Reality of COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has been emotionally devastating for adults, but the full impact on teenagers may be worse.

Today’s adolescents have their fair share of challenges—navigating social media, online bullying, social pressures to partake in drugs and alcohol, among others. All of these are enhanced by the enforced social isolation and cancellation of in-person school.

Risks from exposure to COVID-19 among children and teens is not fully understood. Even with safety protocols in place, fear of contracting the virus is still a major concern for families. Given the potential for acquiring the virus at school and then passing it to older family members or those with underlying medical conditions, is giving parents pause on whether to send their kids back.

In addition to the obvious medical concerns, teens have lost their social outlets and support systems outside of their immediate families. School sports, dances, and traditional rites of passage have been cancelled. They may find coping with this sudden loss difficult, because they will never get to do those things. School may also have been a safe space for an adolescent or teen with an unstable home life.

Teenagers and young adults have developmental motivations and needs that make it hard to isolate at home. The physical and chemical changes that take place during this time make young people highly attuned to social status and peer group. Even though some contact precautions have been put in place, the social landscape for an adolescent is vastly different in comparison to pre-COVID.

Schools have rushed to implement online learning with varying degrees of success. Teens now find themselves with a lot of down time. Without hours and hours of daily structure, teens are left to fill virtually the entire day alone. Technology provides a temporary respite, but may not be a long-term solution. No clear way to manage this schedule change has been developed and may leave students and parents feeling overwhelmed.

Parents should set aside time to truly listen to their children’s frustrations. Showing empathy for and validating their feelings will help teens cope. Parents should ask how they can support them through this time.

Some of these feelings are natural and should be expected. When these feelings and emotions disrupt a teen’s ability to complete schoolwork or assigned responsibilities at home, it may be time to seek additional help.

Chicago Behavioral Hospital specializes in adolescent mental health treatment. No cost assessments are offered 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. A licensed mental health professional will recommend the right treatment for your teen, whether it’s an inpatient stay or outpatient program. Chicago Behavioral Hospital is passionate about adolescent mental health and can provide the tools necessary for a teen to succeed.

Call today for more information: (844) 756-8600

Recognizing Suicide Prevention Month and Recovery Month: Raising Awareness and Holding Hope

September is both Suicide Prevention Awareness Month and Recovery Month. This offers us a unique opportunity to raise awareness about suicide, its triggers, and the process by which people can recover from mental illness and substance use disorders.

In the U.S., suicide is the second leading cause of death for people between 10 and 34 years of age. Suicide is the 15th leading cause of death worldwide, with over 800,000 people dying by suicide annually. Risk factors for suicide include genetic, psychological, social, and cultural factors as well as experiences of trauma, grief, and loss. The most common mental health condition among people who die by suicide is depression. For every one suicide, another 25 people attempt suicide.

Just as it is important to recognize the signs of a medical emergency, like a heart attack or a stroke, it is also important to recognize the signs of a potential mental health crisis that could lead to suicide. These signs may include:

  • Talking about death or suicide
  • Seeming depressed, hopeless, or helpless
  • Talking about feeling like a burden to others
  • Appearing anxious, irritable, or angry
  • Other sudden mood changes
  • Loss of interest or withdrawing from relationships or social activities
  • Giving away possessions
  • Finding ways to say goodbye
  • Reckless behavior
  • Increased use of alcohol or drugs

If you are concerned that someone in your life may be experiencing depression or suicidal thoughts, it is important to address these concerns quickly and effectively. Don’t be afraid to ask, “Are you thinking about suicide?” This question is important to understanding what they are really thinking. Research shows that asking about suicidal thoughts will not cause someone to consider suicide. In fact, people are often relieved that 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.

At Chicago Behavioral Hospital, we believe in providing hope and helping people develop the necessary tools and supports to achieve and maintain their recovery. Our team is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to help those in need of treatment for conditions related to their mental health or substance use, including depression or thoughts of suicide. Assessments are free and confidential. Call us at 844-756-8600.

Suicide is preventable. Recovery is possible.

Additional helpful resources on suicide prevention:

International Association for Suicide Prevention


National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (800) 273-TALK (8255)

Mental Health America

Chicago Behavioral Hospital and Elyssa’s Mission Provide Mental Health Support to Educators

Studies show that teachers experience some of the highest levels of work-related stress among professionals. In a 2015 survey, the American Federation of Teachers found that 78% of teachers reported feeling physically and mentally drained at the end of the day. The current pandemic has only caused further complications for teachers who were already feeling strain and stress in the classroom. Teachers are facing more challenges than ever to care for their students, their families, and themselves.

Chicago Behavioral Hospital and Elyssa’s Mission have expanded their existing partnership to provide support groups for local educators amidst the COVID-19 crisis. Danielle Carleton, LMFT, Director of Business Development at Chicago Behavioral Hospital and Jodie Segal, MSW, Director of Education for Elyssa’s Mission, will co-facilitate two 8-week support groups, one with participants from school districts in the northern Cook County area and the other with participants from school districts across the state. These groups will focus on supporting teachers in navigating the challenges of returning to physical and virtual classrooms during extremely uncertain times. Group topics will include stress management, navigating transitions and uncertainty, practicing mindfulness and other self-care strategies, and tools and resources for engaging and supporting students.

Chicago Behavioral Hospital is a 146-bed free-standing behavioral health hospital located in Des Plaines, Illinois. Open since 2014, CBH provides specialized mental health and substance use treatment for teens and adults. Chicago Behavioral Hospital offers inpatient and outpatient levels of care to treat a variety of mental and behavioral health conditions including depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and substance use disorders.

Free confidential assessments are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week by calling 844-756-8600.

Elyssa’s Mission provides resources to help prevent teen suicide. The community-based organization was founded in 2006 and provides hands-on support in implementing the evidence-based SOS Signs of Suicide program in more than 250 middle and high schools in Illinois. The program educates students, staff, and parents on how to recognize and assist those most at-risk of depression, self-harm, and suicide. Elyssa’s mission has helped educate over one million students, staff, and parents since inception.

Chicago Behavioral Celebrates Pride

Pride Month is a time to recognize and celebrate the advances and victories of the LGBTQ community. It is also a time to reflect on the challenges they still face. Discrimination, lack of acceptance, and bullying can have detrimental effects on mental health.

Research within the LGBTQ community has found that individuals who identify as LGBTQ are at a greater risk of experiencing mental health conditions such as depression or anxiety, and suicide rates are considerably higher. It is clear that discrimination, stigma, and other social pressures play a role in this.

At Chicago Behavioral Hospital, we value diversity and inclusion. We work to educate ourselves on how to be respectful, aware, and supportive of the identities and life experiences of the individuals we treat. We have partnered with leaders in the LGBTQ community, such as Howard Brown Health and Practical Audacity, to make trainings available to our staff and community professionals on using gender affirming language and best practices in working with diverse populations.

Chicago Behavioral Hospital provides mental health and substance use treatment for adolescents, adults, and senior adults regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. Support is provided in both an inpatient and outpatient setting.

Free assessments are offered 24 hours a day, 7 days a week by calling 844-756-8600.

Caring for Seniors

Caring for Moms During Mental Health Month

Budding trees and blooming flowers remind us that spring is a time for growth and transformation. May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and the month in which many people celebrate Mother’s Day. Between the cards, flowers, and thoughtful gifts, Mother’s Day can be a complicated holiday and a source of pain for many women.

Motherhood comes in many forms: single mothers; mothers who share custody; mothers who have experienced infertility; foster and adoptive mothers; mothers who have experienced the tragic loss of a pregnancy, an infant, or an older child; mothers who feel overwhelmed by the demands of life.

There is immense societal pressure for mothers to feel happy on Mother’s Day, but the reality is that motherhood is emotionally and physically challenging at times. The pressure for women to balance their life roles flawlessly—to be the perfect mother, partner, employee, daughter, sister, and friend—while handling challenges with ease and grace can have significant negative impacts on their mental health and wellbeing.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 20% of mothers experience clinical depression after childbirth. This has an impact not only on a woman’s ability to care for themselves, but also the ability to care for their infant or child. This in turn has an impact on the development of the child and can of course cause the mother further distress.

We can look out for the moms in our lives by recognizing the signs of maternal mental health issues such as depression or other perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, which may include:

  • Extreme sadness and/or tearfulness
  • Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
  • Lack of interest or motivation
  • Feeling numb or disconnected
  • Feeling irritable or angry
  • Extreme worry, fear, or anxiety
  • Extreme mood swings or changes
  • Appetite or sleep disturbances

At Chicago Behavioral Hospital, our Women’s Connection program is designed to address the mental health needs of women experiencing symptoms of mental health conditions including depression, anxiety, and PTSD.

If you or someone you care about is in need of help, please call us at 844-756-8600.

How COVID-19 Impacts Women

Women are reporting higher rates of psychological distress compared to men. Anxiety about the COVID-19 pandemic is a growing concern but early studies have indicated women may experience these feelings at an increased level.

Families affected financially by COVID-19 and those adjusting to closures of childcare and after school day care, are more likely to be psychologically impacted by this crisis. Women in Illinois are more likely to be living paycheck-to-paycheck and more likely to be responsible for children with school closures. All of these factors contribute to the increased stress and anxiety women may be feeling.

Many women may find themselves in a situation where the anxiety and stress from these emotions overwhelm them. For working parents, balancing the requirements of a job with new family obligations can be a real struggle.

Recognizing when these feelings become too much is important. Changes in sleep patterns, inability to complete small tasks, and feeling extreme fatigue are all signs it may be time to ask for help.

Chicago Behavioral Hospital specializes in treatment for women. Our compassionate team of mental health professionals work with patients and their families to determine the best type of support we can provide. Using evidence-based treatment specific to women, we hope to provide long lasting change.

No cost mental health assessments are offered 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Please call for more information: (844) 756-8600