Staff members are receiving their COVID-19 vaccinations

Silver Oaks Offers Help for Those Navigating the Holidays During COVID-19

Connections with family and friends are important to all of us. And they mean even more to those suffering from anxiety and/or depression. But for months, COVID-19 restrictions have limited our ability to gather – in pairs or in groups – which can make holiday traditions challenging.

The key is to maintain those connections and traditions safely, or even start new ones, said April Balzhiser, MA, LCPC, ICDVP, Program Director at Silver Oaks Behavioral Hospital in New Lenox.

“We have actually seen our number of cases drop during holidays in past years, because those who suffer from depression or anxiety look forward to those gatherings, those traditions with family and friends,” Balzhiser said.

“But this year over Thanksgiving, we did not see that drop. The number of cases was pretty consistent. And all year, we have been seeing more and more people who never displayed emotional issues before. We’ll have to see what Christmas and New Year’s bring.”

Balzhiser said it is crucial for emotional health to keep up those connections, especially during the holidays. People already have shared Easter and Thanksgiving prayers and meals over Zoom or other similar platforms. They do regular “get-togethers” that way also.

Sometimes, if close enough, they’ve been able to swap favorite foods with socially distanced drops, and share them over Zoom dinners. Maybe there’s even a way to share how to make favorite recipes over Zoom.

“We need to look at the glass half full,” she said. “Instead of thinking, ‘We can’t do this; we can’t do that.’ We should say, ‘How can we still do this? How can we make this work?’”

Speaking of glasses, Balzhiser reminds those with emotional issues that alcohol can exacerbate their distress, or even worse if taken with medications.

Many during the pandemic quarantines have found other ways to cope, like looking around the house to see what needs to be done.

“All of a sudden, you may have a lot on your hands,” she said. “Home improvement sales are going through the roof, no pun intended.”

The National Alliance on Mental Illness NAMI suggests keeping to a regular routine as much as possible.

Make your bed. Get dressed. Connect with loved ones. Move your body. Make time for breaks. If possible, take regular short breaks during work or between shifts. During these breaks, go outside and engage in physical activity if you can.

Practice good hygiene, especially by cleaning your hands. Prioritize sleep. Getting enough regular sleep is critical for your immune system. Eat nutritious food as much as possible, especially fruits and vegetables

Watch out for negative posts on social media. Instead, search for free exercise videos on the web (yoga, dance exercises, Pilates, cardio, HIIT, etc.)

There are many ways you can build a feeling of connection, even if you can’t see people in person or go places you usually would:

  • Make sure you have the phone numbers and emails of close friends and family.
  • Stay connected via phone, email, social media and video calls.
  • Offer to help others if you can.
  • Ask for help when you need it.
  • Share how you’re feeling with people you trust.
  • Regularly call, text or email with family and friends who may have more limited social contact — older Americans, those with disabilities, those who live alone, those who are quarantined or at high risk because of chronic health conditions.
  • If talking about COVID-19 is affecting your mental health, set boundaries with people about how much and when talk you about COVID-19. Balance this with other topics you’d usually discuss.

Balzhiser said much of this can be challenging if you’re home with others, especially if you’re working with children who are being taught remotely.

“Children will pick up on even non-verbal cues from their parents,” she said. “So, it’s good to try to stay positive. You can do crafts together, visit with grandma and grandpa, cousins and friends over Zoom.”

Silver Oaks offers treatment for those ages 13 and up, and Balzhiser said they have seen a rise in teen cases.

“And that makes sense,” she said. “Teens need that peer interaction. Yet, they’re stuck at home with their parents.”

Silver Oaks welcomes walk-ins and calls (844-880-5000) 24 hours a day, seven days a week, Balzhiser said.

They have clinicians available to help at all times who will help determine if a person needs regular visits and/or medication with a provider in the community, full or partial hospitalization, or someone just seeking a non-judgmental ear.

“Remember, we are all in this together,” Balzhiser said. “But one thing is crucial: You have to take care of yourself. We can’t control the news or the pandemic. But we can control how we react to them.”

“And we have a vaccine now. There is hope.”

Being Thankful for Mental Health

By: Kevin Zwiers, MBA

For many of us, Fall symbolizes the upcoming holidays. Several of us enjoy the crispness in the air, the changing colors of the leaves on the trees, the smell of bonfires, and gathering with family members. There are those that dread the entire experience however, especially when battling a mental health condition. Individuals may feel alone or distant during these times. How are we addressing those concerns with those who are anxious, stressed, depressed, or just downright down?

The first thing we can do is to be cognizant that you, your friends, and family members are not alone. There are differing degrees of stressors during this time, especially with COVID-19 in the mix. Challenging times mixed with familial relationships can highlight an individual that has a mental illness. This can prompt negative thoughts or actions.

Talking about these stressors is one of the best things someone can do to combat someone struggling during this time. An attempt to get in front of a negative incident you can let people know that the situation or circumstance is uncomfortable. Taking moments to yourself can also allow these triggers to subside. Processing these thoughts and feelings can also aid in overcoming these struggles.

The holidays do not have to be a time to not look forward to, have unhealthy coping mechanisms, or socially isolate. This season, be thankful for friends and family. Don’t just put on a brave face and think everything is status quo. This year, be grateful. The health benefits can allow for a higher quality of mental health. Tis’ the season for embracing yourself and focusing on the long run of a happy and healthy mental state.

Silver Oaks Behavioral Hospital stands with our community as we treat those with mental health conditions. As a community service, we offer free mental health assessments 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Call us at (844) 580-5000 or walk-in anytime.

Mental Illness-An Orientation to a Healthy Mind

By: Kevin Zwiers, MBA, Community Liaison

Statistically speaking, 1 in 4 people will suffer from a mental illness in a calendar year. Look at the people around you. How many are suffering from a mental illness? As I write this, I think to myself, I am part of a family of 4. Are they suffering? Am I suffering?

What is Mental Illness?

As the National Alliance on Mental Illness states, a mental illness is a medical condition that disrupts a person’s thinking, feeling, mood, ability to relate to others and daily functioning. Just as diabetes is a disorder of the pancreas, mental illnesses are medical conditions that often result in a diminished capacity for coping with ordinary demands of life.

Let’s break it down.

Mental Illnesses can come in all shapes and sizes. None of which are the same. Each individual reacts differently to their ailments based on their own experiences. Mental illnesses can be a debilitating aspect to one’s life, while there may be very high functioning individuals also living with a mental illness.

The key is to think that the brain is like any other organ in the body and should be treated as such. There is too much negative stigma associated with seeking help. If you were to have hypertension (high blood pressure) would you get treated for it? If I were to ask if anyone reading this has diabetes, would you answer without hesitation? Finally, if I were to ask if you were suffering from depression, how many of us would admit to that? The number of Americans affected by mental illness is 1 in 4 adults-approximately 61.5 million Americans. 1 in 17 adults-about 13.6 million live with a serious mental illness such as schizophrenia, major depression, or bipolar disorder.

Who can be affected?

Mental illnesses can affect persons of any age, race, religion, or income. Mental illnesses are not the result of personal weakness, lack of character or poor upbringing. It does not matter if you drive a Maserati or a Ford Focus. It doesn’t matter if you can lift 400 lbs. above your head. Mental illness can affect any person at any time. Mental illnesses are treatable. That has to be the most important part to take away. Just because someone suffers from one diagnosis does not mean we treat it the same way for others. Most people diagnosed with a serious mental illness can experience relief from their symptoms by actively participating in an individualized treatment plan.

How do we treat mental health?

Silver Oaks Behavioral Hospital specializes in mental health and substance use disorder treatment. Our 100-bed facility is equipped with the latest safety features designed to provide patients with a comfortable environment to receive therapeutic care.

Our therapy modalities are evidence-based models proven to decrease symptoms of mental illness and help patients find lasting change. Silver Oaks Behavioral Hospital offers a caring environment with licensed psychiatrists, nurses, therapists and technicians who are dedicated to providing exceptional care for you, a loved one or your client.

Silver Oaks Behavioral Hospital provides mental health and substance use disorder programming for adolescents to senior adults.

Silver Oaks Behavioral Hospital stands with our community as we treat those suffering with mental illness. As a community service, we offer free mental health assessments 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Call us at (844) 580-5000 or walk-in anytime.

Seasonal Affective Disorder – More than the Holiday Blues

By: Kevin Zwiers, MBA

What is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)?

SAD is a mood disorder associated with depression episodes related to seasonal variations of light. This is characterized by symptoms of depression during predominantly the winter months, which subside during the spring and summer months. SAD may affect over 3 million Americans every year. While it is commonly associated with winter, some individuals may experience a summer depression. The common age of onset is usually in their 30’s and unfortunately, 70-80% of those with SAD are women.

Some of the signs/symptoms of SAD could be:

  • SAD is more than just the “blahs”
  • People can experience real grief
  • Anxiety can be present
  • Extreme irritability to the point of violence
  • Decreased physical activity
  • Appetite for carbohydrates increases (sugary, starchy foods, alcohol)
  • Hypersomnia-excessive sleepiness during the day

What causes Seasonal Affective Disorder?

The most probable theory of SAD’s cause is found in Melatonin; a sleep-related hormone secreted by the pineal gland in the brain. This hormone, commonly associated with causing symptoms of depression, is produced at increased levels in the dark. The reduced levels of sunlight in fall and winter can disrupt your body’s internal clock. As a result, lower levels of serotonin, a brain chemical that affects mood can trigger depression.

Holiday Blues versus SAD

While not as serious, the holiday blues can be quite debilitating. You may be experiencing some of these same symptoms, but not consistently or as severely as those experiencing SAD. You may be able to subside your symptoms of Holiday Blues using Light Therapy, while those with Seasonal Affective Disorder would not feel the same effects. In Light Therapy, an exposure to light and vitamin D can directly impact your ability to fight off these feelings. Holiday Blues is considered to be more situational than physical. This means situations like the loss of a loved one or job loss can contribute to your symptoms, but individuals with SAD experience these feelings unprovoked and can cause them severe physical ailments. However, there can be a relationship between the two.

Common Causes of the Blues:

  • Past losses
  • Unresolved grief
  • Anticipating a significant loss
  • Disappointment from dwelling on the past
  • Dissatisfaction about “now”
  • Contrast between the image of holiday joy and the reality of one’s life
  • Increased isolation and loneliness
  • The increased pace and stress of the season
  • Extra demands on time, attention, energy, and finances
  • Unrealistic expectations

Beating the Holiday Blues is possible. Re-think how you or family members view the holidays and make sure you are setting realistic expectations. Putting less demand on yourself will ultimately help these relationships during this time. Ensure that negative thoughts, loss of a loved one, or decreased activity does not banish reasons for feeling unhappy. Spending time with supportive people, continuing to stay active, choosing healthy eating options, and setting time for yourself can reduce the stressors of the season.

As fall and winter are just around the corner, Silver Oaks Behavioral Hospital stands with our community as we treat those suffering with mental illness. As a community service, we offer free mental health assessments 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Call us at (844) 580-5000 or walk-in anytime.

Reflections on National Suicide Prevention Month

Every person can help prevent suicide and promote recovery for individuals that may have a mental illness. Mental health is very important to helping anyone change the narrative for those in need. According to the World Health Organization, suicide is among the three leading causes of death for those aged 15-44 and second leading cause of death in those 10-24 years of age. With nearly 1.4 million Americans attempting suicide annually, this accounts on average for nearly 132 Americans dying by suicide each day.

Everyone has unique experiences throughout their lives and these experiences effect everyone differently. Knowing the signs of suicide and being able to recognize them can successfully prevent an attempt. These signs can include, but are not limited to the following:

    • Withdrawing from friends and family
    • Losing interest in activities
    • Feelings of hopelessness/helplessness
    • Talking about death or suicide
    • Extreme mood swings
    • Saying goodbye to family and friends


Suicide is preventable even if it does not feel like it. Being an advocate for those in need can make all the difference. There is a lot that each of us can do to prevent suicide. Some of the things that you can do to help may include:

    • Seek help if you are worried
    • Listening
    • Respond to crisis quickly
    • Offering support and help
    • Keep them safe
    • Stay connected


Suicide is an attempt to escape suffering that can feel unbearable. Despite the individuals desire for the pain to stop, most individuals that have or experience suicidal thoughts or attempts, feel deeply conflicted about ending their own lives. This major public health concern can be complicated and tragic. However, we know this can be preventable. Knowing the warning signs and how to help can save lives.

Silver Oaks Behavioral Hospital stands with our community as we reflect on Suicide Prevention Month. As September comes to an end, we need to remember to offer the same caring support for those in need year round.

As a community service, we offer free mental health assessments 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Call us at 844-580-5000 or walk-in anytime.

Expert Advisory Board Formed for Specialized Women’s Mental Health Program

Silver Oaks Behavioral Hospital has formed a Women’s Advisory Board consisting of leading subject matter experts from various medical and behavioral fields. The advisory board is the first of its kind in Illinois and will offer a more complete treatment protocol rooted in evidence-based therapy.

“Research has shown that better outcomes are achieved overall for patients when both the physical and mental condition of the patient are addressed. In some instances, one area may be causing or be a contributing factor to the symptoms the patient is experiencing”, says Silver Oaks CEO, Scott Hullinger.

The purpose of the advisory board is to broaden integration between mental and physical health. Members of the advisory board will not only provide insight into the treatment offered in the women’s program at Silver Oaks Hospital, but will provide education to the community and other healthcare providers on the interrelationship between the physical and mental health needs of women.

The advisory board is led by Silver Oaks Behavioral Hospital Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Jyoti Randhawa. “Silver Oaks is hoping to broaden our treatment of women and gain a more comprehensive understanding of the issues that many women bring to their physicians in the course of physical treatment. So often, the mental health needs of women go unaddressed until they become a crisis. By working with physicians from all aspects of women’s health, Silver Oaks will be better positioned to ensure that when mental health issues arise, the physical issues are considered as a contributory factor”, says Randhawa.

Other members of the advisory board consist of:

Dr. Nicole Gress
OBGYN Partners in Obstetrics and Women’s Health
Silver Cross Hospital

Dr. Mykela Loury
Family Medicine UIC

Dr. Binisa Shah
Northwestern University

Dr. Miral Amin
Cancer Treatment Center of America/Breast Oncology Surgeon

Hiren Ghayal, Psy D.
Oak Street OP center

Nutan Vaidya, MD Psychiatrist
Rosalind Franklin University


Silver Oaks will promote community education opportunities as they are scheduled as well as provide more background on our board members.

For more information about the Women’s Advisory Board, please contact:

Josh Grondel, Regional Director of Business Development

[email protected]

Silver Oaks Behavioral Hospital specializes in acute behavioral healthcare and chemical dependency care for adolescents, adults, and senior adults. Treatment is offered on both an inpatient and outpatient basis. No cost assessments are offered 24 hours a day, 7 days a week by calling 844-580-5000.

*Silver Oaks is following all CDC and local health department guidelines regarding COVID-19. All visitors, patients, and staff are screened daily for symptoms.

Remote Learning and Behavioral Health

How to identify your students struggling with a possible Mental Health crisis.

These are times like no other. Teaching “remotely” & “hybrid”, are new terms when it comes to educating our kids. In this unprecedented time of remote learning, the mental health and well-being of students has become a serious concern.

With the shift to remote learning, students have lost the informal interactions they had in school – from catching up in the hallways before class to eating lunch together in the cafeteria. Remote learning strips away everything but the academics.  So being aware and nimble is critical for both teachers and parents. From students feeling isolated and dealing with depression, to handling social-emotional challenges and experiencing long-term trauma, this has been a tough time for everyone!  Social and emotional learning are the soft skills students need to collaborate effectively with their peers; the ability to manage emotions, set positive goals, display empathy, and make responsible decisions.  Because of this, Silver Oaks Behavioral Hospital would like to  provide you with the tools and information you may need to identify students who may be in crisis or in need of our collective assistance.

Prior to the pandemic, parents relied on the support and benefit of school staff to identify and assess students exhibiting mental health concerns. Recognizing a student struggling with a mental health issue is difficult enough, but working with children virtually and assessing need can be a real complicated endeavor and one that is unique to many!

Consider the difficulties that may have occurred over the last several months with kids who:

  • Are at-risk learners
  • Struggling with enough to eat
  • Lack of academic support
  • Have family who are essential workers
  • Are low income or have job losses in the family
  • Have family members who have had COVID experiences or succumbed to the virus
  • May have lived through violence or trauma during the pandemic
  • Missed major life milestones (birthday celebrations, lost sports and academic opportunities, lost scholarships)

Teachers’ roles in recognizing academic gaps, learning barriers and social/emotional health is critical now.  School staff should watch for stress traps, warning signs and symptoms for themselves and their students.

Identifiable Stressors:

  • Tense and nervous expressions
  • Lots of physical complaints and absences form school/work
  • Talking about nightmares, lack of sleep or being overtired
  • Apathy
  • Impulsivity
  • Over-preoccupation with COVID and current events
  • Quiet, sad, depressed looking and acting
  • Poor task completion
  • Irritable, angry, and easily frustrated with limited ability to regroup
  • Withdrawal from friends and other valuable relationships

This will be a school year like no other. Here at Silver Oaks Behavioral Hospital, we stand with our teachers as they stand for their students.  We believe in your resilience and capacity for succeeding in these challenging times. Let us assist you if you need help!

Our Assessment and Referral process is specialized for those requiring intensive, individualized level of care determination.  Our programs are there to intervene in a mental health crisis and provide stabilization and a finely tuned discharge plan to help someone move positively toward recovery from a mental illness.

Call our intake team or simply walk-in.  We are here for you 24/7.

Silver Oaks Behavioral Hospital

Confidential and Free Initial Assessment:  844-580-5000

1004 Pawlak Parkway

New Lenox, IL 60451

COVID safety is applied during assessment and hospital stays.

Resiliency during COVID

As we all attempt to look at ways to navigate ourselves through the Covid-19 pandemic, one area that we need to look at is our mental health and how we are managing extra stress or mental strain that it has placed on our daily functioning. A recent survey by the CDC and Census Bureau asked Americans about symptoms of anxiety and depression they were experiencing. Approximately one third of people surveyed reported having some symptoms of anxiety and depression since late April as compared to the first three months of 2019 where only 11% Americans reported having signs or symptoms of anxiety or depression. This does not necessarily mean that people have been diagnosed or will be diagnosed with depression or anxiety, but it helps us to understand the psychological impact of the pandemic.

With the pandemic continuing to impact us, we need to look further at mental health. This includes looking at our own well-being and our resilience as factors that predict our ability to cope with the stress brought about by COVID. Resilience can be defined as the ability to adapt to new situations and having the ability to cope as things change.

If people have a strong sense of resiliency and a positive sense of well-being, it allows them to approach their life with more optimism and confidence. Having a stronger sense of confidence and optimism will help you to face the added strains put on us by the pandemic. The following are some of the indicators of resiliency:

  1. Having the confidence to approach new people and new situations
  2. Having the ability to set new goals and apply attention and flexibility achieving those goals
  3. Having a realistic yet optimistic viewpoint toward life
  4. Having a positive self-esteem and develop a level of self-awareness
  5. Having the ability to avoid negativity and self-blame, allowing yourself to let go and move forward.

Remember asking for help to achieve this is not a personal weakness, it is a strength. It is one of the steps toward personal wellness. We need to start to practice healthy habits for our mind and body as we work toward a stronger sense of resiliency. Some of the habits include getting enough sleep, eating a healthier diet and exercise. These are some first steps to address to meet our basic needs. As you begin to have those first steps move in a positive direction, then you can begin to work on your emotional management/resiliency. You may choose to work on setting the goals on your own or you may need to reach out for assistance from a professional therapist. The therapist can help you to set up a structured plan and goals for you to work on while giving you support and feedback as you walk your path toward a positive sense of well being.

Silver Oaks Behavioral Hospital has the tools and knowledge to help you develop resiliency. We offer programming on both an inpatient and outpatient basis for adolescents, adults, and senior adults.

Call today for more information: 844-580-5000.

First Responder & Front Line Employee Support

EMS, Fire, and Police frequently experience high levels of stress and anxiety related to work responsibilities. This is also true of front line healthcare workers in both medical and behavioral fields.

The current COVID-19 pandemic has only added to these responsibilities and many of these individuals are now unsure of how to cope or look for signs they may need additional support.

Lynette Hickey, Sam Gehrig, and Tript Bajwah discuss what these added pressures may look like and what can be done to help.

Additionally, Silver Oaks is now providing a weekly virtual support group led by a licensed therapist for first responders and front line healthcare workers. The group provides a network of support and understanding of the difficult situations that often arise in these roles.

For more information or to schedule an assessment, please call 844-580-5000 or visit