We Need to Talk: Suicide is Preventable

For decades, suicide was not something to be talked about by families and friends affected by the devastating loss.

Because of this and the stigma attached to mental illness, we learned too late that those who chose suicide were afraid to confide in others as well. Or maybe they felt there was no one in whom they could confide.

September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, and licensed caregivers from Silver Oaks Behavioral Hospital on the campus of Silver Cross Hospital in New Lenox want those affected by thoughts of suicide or the loss of a loved one to know that they are not alone, and help is only a call away.

“Here at Silver Oaks Behavioral Hospital, we strive to provide resources to individuals, family members, friends, and the community for addressing mental health conditions and improving quality of life. We are dedicated to meeting the behavioral health and substance abuse needs in the community,” says Scott Hullinger, Chief Executive Officer, Silver Oaks Behavioral Hospital.

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. Experts also say lesbian, gay and bisexual youth are four times more likely to attempt suicide than straight youth. Transgender adults are nearly 12 times more likely to attempt suicide than the general population.

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 affect everyone differently. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), 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:

  • 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 for your loved one if you are worried
  • Listening
  • Respond to crisis quickly
  • Offer support and help
  • Keep them safe
  • Stay connected

Suicide is an attempt to escape suffering that can feel unbearable. Despite the individual’s 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.

NAMI offers these informational resources:

As a community service, Silver Oaks Behavioral Hospital offers free mental health assessments 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Call 844-580-5000 or walk-in anytime.

Silver Oaks CEO: Pandemic challenges may lead to greater acceptance of mental health Issues

Despite all the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic during the past year, Scott Hullinger, CEO of Silver Oaks Behavioral Hospital in New Lenox, believes the flexibility and resiliency shown during the crisis, both of providers and their clients, could lead to long-term successes.

“This past year has been unprecedented in so many ways,” said Hullinger, a licensed clinical social worker with extensive experience in the inpatient and outpatient behavioral health services field.

“None of us has been through a pandemic before. It was critical that we adapt and find new ways of helping people. And we did.”

“Following safety guidelines from the Illinois Department of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Silver Oaks continued providing assessments and treatment during the pandemic,” he said.

Additionally, Hullinger said even technologically challenged people like himself became “avid Zoomers,” and providers adapted to offer one-on-one Telehealth sessions, and even group sessions via Zoom.

“Keeping those lines of communication open are critical,” he said. “We encourage our clients not to isolate. And what happens? A quarantine. We had to get creative. People were scared.”

“The stress of the quarantine – the loss of jobs and income while having to help their children with schoolwork – not only added stress for those already suffering,” Hullinger said, “but brought in a new group of those who possibly had not fully understood anxiety and depression before.”

“But even if they didn’t,” he said, “chances are pretty good they know someone who suffers from mental health issues.”

“One in five adults in the nation experiences some form of mental illness each year,” Hullinger said. “The problem is, less than half seek treatment.” The overall suicide rate in the U.S. has increased by 35 percent since 1999, and suicide is now the second leading cause of death among those ages 10 to 34 and the 10th leading cause of death overall in the U.S.

“A big problem is the stigma associated with mental illness. It has gotten better over the years, but it’s still there. We have to let people know what they are feeling likely is common and is treatable by mental health professionals.”

“Education is the key to easing the stigma,” he said. “At one time, other illnesses were only whispered about, while now people are open and readily seek treatment.”

“The other problem with helping those in need is a lack of mental health providers. Citing statistics from the National Alliance on Mental Illness,” he said, “55 percent of U.S. counties do not have a single practicing psychiatrist.”

“And while that number is improving,” Hullinger said, “it could take any years for the number of providers to catch up with the need.”

“We have to find a way to let people know there are all kinds of jobs in the mental health field,” he said. “Not all are at hospitals. Some are in schools, in mobile units and clinics.”

Hullinger hopes those who may have experienced anxiety, depression and other mental health issues during the pandemic will be more likely to reach out for help, and maybe encourage others to do the same.

“And we may not fully understand the effects of the pandemic stressors for years,” he added.

“As things continue to open up, I don’t expect people to be OK immediately. I believe it will be a long process. But it’s a step in the right direction.”

About Silver Oaks Behavioral Hospital

Silver Oaks Behavioral Hospital specializes in mental health and substance use disorder treatment. Our 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. We provide mental health and substance use disorder programming for adolescents to senior adults. Additional specialized programs will be designed based on identified needs in the community. 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.

Women’s Advisory Board Presentation Series

Women’s Advisory Board Presentation Series

1. Dr. Nicole Gress / May 18th / 4 pm / “Mental Health and the Hormone Component – Medications we can utilize in Third Trimester”.
Dr. Randhawa / “Impact of Stress during pregnancy and after”.

2. Dr. Nutan Vaidya / June 17th / 2 pm / “Resilience During/Post Pandemic”.
Dr. Randhawa / “Self-care during COVID”.

3. Dr. Miral Amin / July 16th / 2 pm / “Mental Health Care of Patients with Breast Cancer”.
Dr. Randhawa / “How to access capacity to make decisions”.

4. Dr. Loury / October 7th / 3 pm / “Mental Health Awareness in the Community and How we can monitor and support on a continuous basis”.
Dr. Randhawa / “411 mental health in urban communities”.

Learn More about the Women’s Advisory Board here.

Silver Oaks Behavioral Opens Specialized Men’s Mental Health and Chemical Dependency Inpatient Program

Silver Oaks Behavioral Hospital has opened a Specialized Men’s Unit. This programming expands mental health treatment services specifically for men in Southern and Western suburbs of Chicagoland. This specialized program is designed to treat the unique mental health needs of men.

Read the full press release: Click Here to Download (PDF)

Heart to Heart: Depression often linked to cardiac issues

By: Nick Reiher

Depression can be caused by many factors, major life changes, such as heart issues and surgery.

Conversely, depression and stress can trigger many physical problems, including high blood pressure and heart ailments.

“Stress affects everything,” said April A. Balzhiser, MA, LCPC, ICDVP, Program Director at Silver Oaks Behavioral Hospital in New Lenox. “If one part of us is off, all of us is off.”

According to an article from the Cleveland Clinic, up to 15 percent of patients with cardiovascular disease and up to 20 percent of patients who have undergone coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) surgery experience major depression.

Studies have shown that mental stress has a negative effect on a person’s heart health. Unmanaged stress can lead to high blood pressure, arterial damage, irregular heart rhythms and a weakened immune system.

For people with heart disease, depression can increase the risk of an adverse cardiac event such as a heart attack or blood clots. For people who do not have heart disease, depression can also increase the risk of a heart attack and development of coronary artery disease.

In one landmark study, the article said, the continued presence of depression after recovery increased the risk of death (mortality) to 17 percent within six months after a heart attack (versus 3 percent mortality in heart attack patients who didn’t have depression).

Also, during recovery from cardiac surgery, depression can intensify pain, worsen fatigue and sluggishness, or cause a person to withdraw into social isolation. Patients who have had CABG and have untreated depression after surgery also have increased morbidity and mortality.

In fact, according to the Cleveland Clinic article, Depression has been proven to be such a risk factor in cardiac disease that the American Heart Association (AHA) has recommended that all cardiac patients be screened for depression.

Not that some depression following major surgery is uncommon. The Cleveland Clinic article notes that If you’re recovering from heart surgery, a heart attack, or another heart condition, temporary feelings of sadness and a depressed mood are common for the first few weeks.

However, treatment is necessary when depression is severe and accompanied by other symptoms (including withdrawal from activities, not responding when visiting with family and friends, increased negative thoughts and tearfulness).

A Johns Hopkins Medicine article notes depressed heart attack patients can have decreased motivation to follow healthy daily routines, which can result in skipping important heart medications, avoiding exercise and proper diet, and continuing or intensifying smoking and drinking habits.

They also can experience changes in their nervous system and hormonal balance, which can make it more likely for an arrhythmia to occur. The combination of depression and a damaged heart (from a heart attack), seems to make people particularly susceptible to potentially fatal heart rhythm abnormalities, according to the article.

“It is imperative, then,” Balzhiser said, “to make sure people are monitored closely in both situations.”

“When our patients come in, they are given a full medical examination within 24 hours,” she said. “Absolutely, there have been times when we noticed heart issues, and if not too severe, we will monitor them in-house. If they are more severe, we’ll refer them to a heart doctor at Silver Cross next door.”

“On the other end of the spectrum, if doctors and nurses notice a cardiac surgery patient struggling with emotions,” Balzhiser said, “they will refer them to Silver Oaks.”

“Not all heart patients struggle after surgery,” she added, “and not all show symptoms right away. It’s not unusual for Silver Oaks to get a call from a heart patient weeks later asking if what they’re feeling is normal post-surgical fatigue or depression.”

“A lot of your recovery has to do with your outlook,” Balzhiser said. “Some people are relieved to be feeling better, and that eases a lot of their stress.”

“The key is, you have to take care of your whole body, and not just put one part over another.”

About Silver Cross Hospital
Silver Cross Hospital is an independent, not-for-profit health care provider serving Will County and southwest suburban communities since 1895. Silver Cross has been recognized as a Truven Health/IBM Watson 100 Top Hospitals National Award winner for eight years, and honored with an “A” Hospital Safety Grade by The Leapfrog Group. With over 4,500 employees, physicians and volunteers, Silver Cross operates a 300-bed acute care hospital and 5 satellite facilities providing outpatient services and physician offices. Silver Cross opened a state-of-the-art replacement hospital in 2012 at I-355 and Route 6 in New Lenox. In 2019, Silver Cross provided over $39 million in charity care and other community benefits. To learn more about Silver Cross Hospital or a referral to a physician on staff, visit silvercross.org. Physicians on Silver Cross Hospital’s Medical Staff have expertise in their areas of practice to meet the needs of patients seeking their care. These physicians are independent practitioners on the Medical Staff and are not the agents or employees of Silver Cross Hospital. They treat patients based upon their independent medical judgment and they bill patients separately for their services.

About Silver Oaks Behavioral Hospital
Silver Oaks Behavioral Hospital specializes in mental health and substance use disorder treatment. Our 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. Additional specialized programs will be designed based on identified needs in the community.

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.

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 110-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.