May is Positively Mental Health Month

Find Your Positive Outlook

Since 1949, mental health has been observed in May as Mental Health Month. Part of creating mental wellness and staying mentally healthy has to do with managing your health through positivity. Research has made clear (Lahnna, Catalino, Algoe, etc.) that positivity can raise your mood, reduce worry, improve reactions to stress, and even create improved physical health. With this in mind, it makes sense that we do what it takes to seek positivity in our lives.

Practicing Positivity

This is not about ignoring the stuff that is not so positive in your life, it’s about looking for the bright side when you can. Think about your assets and what you have available to make things better. Think people, places, and things that are a part of your life that help push you over the hump. You may be surprised at how many positives you have in your life: people who are genuine helpers and look out for your best interests, locations where you can go and really breathe positive vibes into your day just by being there, and, of course, your own personal strengths.

When bad stuff happens, and it will, can you process it in a way that helps you manage it more positively? Ask yourself: What did I do well in this situation? What did I learn and how will I use this in the future? Is there someone who reached out during this tough time and have I thanked them? These are great processing opportunities and lets you see that even in the worst of times, there are positives somewhere.

Gratitude Raises Positivity

Start your day with a thank you. Be grateful for waking up, having clean clothes and a warm house. Just be grateful. You know that your mother always said that somebody had it worse than you. You also know she was right.

Find one special day each year when you write a “Grateful for You” letter. Tell someone what they mean to you and why. This not only cements a relationship, it spreads positive emotions and can make a real difference for someone. Try something like The 5 Minute Gratitude Journal by Sarah Godkin, PHD, and document grateful moments. Put some structure on being grateful. Make it a habit.

Don’t Fight the Feelings

When you feel down, feel it. It’s ok. Do yourself a favor though, don’t live in it. Make some decisions about how long you are going to feel it before you take action or move on. Also, ask yourself, is this really something I want to focus on with all my energy or is this something that really doesn’t matter.

Set aside a time to deal with the problem. Bring a friend into the process to provide insight and support. You never have to go through it alone. Have a “ME” moment. Do something that always changes your mood. Ease into it (but don’t procrastinate).

6 “Stay Positive” Behaviors to Hone Your Positivity Skills

  1. Reframe the negative: Look for that silver lining and make a statement to yourself about what you learned, how you will grow or how the best may come out of the situation.
  2. Ask yourself if you did your best: If you did, pat yourself on the back. If you didn’t, what would your best effort have looked like? Trust in knowing that you will probably have a chance to try again.
  3. Rely on friends: Don’t isolate when things aren’t the best. Friends help friends. You’ll have a chance to be the helper, too.
  4. Accept the moment: If you are in a “surviving, not thriving” time, know that it won’t last forever and think of it that way.
  5. Always make time to experience nature: More and more research (H Jo, Chawla, White, etc.) shows that being outside and being in the moment in nature raises your mood and attitude.
  6. Prevent and plan ahead: Avoid now or never situations by getting ahead of the game and getting things done on time and with your best effort.

All in all, make focusing on the positive your Mental Health Month goal. You may find that positive efforts lead to positive results!

Providing Mental Health Support for LGBTQIA+ Youth

June is Pride month—a time to celebrate the culture of the LGBTQIA+ community, honor their impact and progress in the world, and renew awareness of the inequalities still faced by so many.

Injustice and inequity are detrimental to mental health. LGBTQIA+ individuals are more likely to experience mental health challenges, many of which are directly related to experiencing discrimination and stigma, and the resulting chronic psychological stress. Specifically, LGBTQIA+ youth are more likely to struggle with anxiety, depression, self-harm, and thoughts of suicide than their straight, cisgender peers.

LGBTQIA+ individuals can thrive in the face of adversity with the help of supportive people and communities. According to The Trevor Project 2022 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health, LGBTQ youth who felt supported and accepted by their families, schools, or communities reported significantly lower rates of attempting suicide than youth who did not feel supported or accepted.

Chicago Behavioral Hospital provides mental health treatment services for young adults, including those who identify as LGBTQIA+. We strive to provide an inclusive and supportive therapeutic environment for all individuals seeking mental health care. For more information or to schedule a no-cost assessment, contact us at 844-756-8600.

Beating the Holiday Blues

Sometimes the holiday season can be less than jolly and joyful. The holidays can create intense feelings of sadness and stress. The reasons are numerous, but can include having to reflect on holidays past, feeling lonely or missing someone unavailable or no longer living, or just being anxious and worried about managing everything that the holiday time entails. Some find themselves absolutely exhausted by the holidays and cannot seem to really enjoy the season. Watching commercials and TV shows that show people in the perfect clothes, at the perfect holiday parties, getting the perfect holiday gift in a perfectly decorated home may create the worst in holiday expectations. Who can achieve that? So, feelings of worthlessness, guilt, and hopelessness may take over. The holidays can also be a time of personal reflections and some may feel that they have failed when not all of their planned goals were met.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 64% of people living with an existing mental illness say that the holidays exacerbated feelings of depression and sadness; making the holidays a not-so-festive time of the year. The intensity and the length of the holiday blues depends on support, the ability to be mindful of the positive aspects of the holiday, and good coping strategies.

If you want to be on alert for signs that the holiday may be causing the blues, look for these kinds of clues:

  1. Isolating or avoiding get-togethers.
  2. Over-eating or not enjoying the holiday treats and meals.
  3. Feeling guilty that you couldn’t do more.
  4. Constant feelings of anxiety.
  5. Expressing negative feelings through arguments.
  6. Not looking forward to things.
  7. Feeling unable to focus on things that need to get done.
  8. Increased use of substances.

If these feelings persist past the holidays or thoughts of suicide occur, get help immediately. Stay alert to children who may be feeling blue around the holiday as well. It is not just adults who can feel sad around holiday-time. Connecting with a therapist during the holidays may be valuable to help smooth over the rough spots and help navigate through the bustle of the holidays.

Here are some things you can do on your own to make the holidays better and more manageable:

  1. Be careful with drinking. Be moderate in your choices and consider why you are drinking.
  2. Find people you want to spend time with and plan for other parties. Say no if you are becoming overwhelmed by invitations, but avoid isolation.
  3. Volunteer to help others.
  4. Do something you really enjoy doing. Do it for you!
  5. Nobody’s perfect. Do what you can and enjoy!
  6. Don’t let the idea that it is holiday-time hijack you. Sometimes you need to just have a regular day with no holiday plans. Relax.

If you or a loved one are feeling sad or blue after the holidays have passed, or your feelings are too intense to manage, consider seeking additional help. A free, confidential assessment at Chicago Behavioral Hospital may offer you some ideas about what level of treatment will get you back on track. Our assessment and referral team is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 844-756-8600.


Chicago Behavioral Hospital Announces New Chief Medical Officer

Chicago Behavioral Hospital is proud to announce the appointment of Dr. Imran Shakir as Chief Medical Officer. Dr. Shakir is an experienced psychiatrist and proven leader in the mental health field. He has focused his career on caring for the mental health needs of underserved adults and children, and also specializes in the treatment of Autism Spectrum Disorder. He is passionate about increasing access to mental health services for all Illinoisans, and especially for those in underserved, low-income communities. He is a thought leader in the field of mental health technology and has been involved in the development of several electronic medical records tailored for psychiatry.

Before being named the Chief Medical Officer at Chicago Behavioral Hospital, he served as the Chair and Director of Behavioral Health at Aunt Martha’s, a community mental health agency serving over 105,000 children and adults throughout over 600 communities in Illinois, where he continues to care for patients.

Dr. Shakir holds dual board certifications in Adult Psychiatry and Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. He is board eligible for certification in Medical Informatics. He completed his Adult Psychiatry residency training at Case Western Reserve in Cleveland, Ohio, and later completed his fellowship specialization in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at the University of Chicago, where he also served as the Chief Fellow. He completed his medical schooling at The Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine in Erie, Pennsylvania.

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 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.

Chicago Behavioral Hospital Announces 2020 Employee of the Year

What a year 2020 was! JoAnne G., infection control nurse at Chicago Behavioral Hospital, worked tirelessly to help keep patients and staff safe during some of the most uncertain times we have ever seen. JoAnne went above and beyond to help us stay up-to-date on all COVID-19 guidelines, manage internal safety protocols and procedures, and procure proper PPE. More recently, Joanne singlehandedly vaccinated over 230 of our employees. When receiving the 2020 employee of the year award, JoAnne said to her fellow CBH staff, “You are all my family and there’s nothing I wouldn’t do for you”. Congratulations, JoAnne and thank you from the bottom of our hearts for all you do for CBH patients and staff.

Chicago Behavioral Hospital Celebrates Black Pioneers in Mental Health

February is Black History Month, a national celebration of black culture and the achievements of African Americans throughout U.S. history. In fact, the origins of Black History Month can be traced back to Chicago, when Carter G. Woodson returned to his alma mater, the University of Chicago, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of emancipation.

There have been many impactful contributions to the mental health field by African Americans throughout our country’s history. Here are just a few Black pioneers who have helped to advance the field of mental health, reduce the stigma associated with mental health, and provide hope and help to those living with mental health conditions:

Dr. Mamie Phipps Clark, along with her husband Dr. Kenneth Clark, conducted groundbreaking research that helped to end segregation. She was passionate about equity and accessibility to mental health services which led to opening her own agency to provide services to under-resourced families.

Dr. Maxie Clarence Maultsby, Jr. was the founder of rational behavioral therapy, a treatment methodology that proved to be comprehensive, yet short-term, with long-lasting therapeutic outcomes.

Dr. Solomon Carter Fuller was among the first Black psychiatrists. His work included substantial contributions to the study of Alzheimer’s disease, schizophrenia, and manic depression.

Jacki McKinney, MSW, is a survivor and advocate. She is known for her national presentations on topics related to minority mental health and issues faced by African American women and children. Ms. McKinney has received several awards for her leadership and advocacy.

Inez Beverly Prosser, PhD, was the first African American woman to earn a PhD in psychology. The findings of her research on the impacts of racial inequality and racism on the development of Black children led to some of the first discussions about desegregating schools.

Dr. Jeanne Spurlock was a psychiatrist, educator, and writer whose focus was on bringing to light the impact of poverty, sexism, racism, and discrimination on women, minorities, and the GLBTQ community. She began her career in Chicago, serving in a number of leadership roles including chief of the Child Psychiatry Clinic at Michael Reese Hospital. Dr. Spurlock served as deputy medical director of the American Psychiatric Association from 1974 to 1991.

Francis Sumner, PhD, is often referred to as the Father of Black Psychology because he was the first African American to receive a PhD degree in psychology. Dr. Sumner was invested in understanding racial bias and supporting educational justice. He was also a founder of the psychology department at Howard University.

The efforts of the individuals listed here are just a sampling of the contributions that African Americans have made in the mental health field. Throughout history, communities of color have experienced unique and substantial challenges in accessing services to meet their mental health needs. Chicago Behavioral Hospital does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, gender, age, or disability in its programs and activities. We continually strive to stand up for equality and eliminate barriers for those in need of mental health support.

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 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

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