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The pandemic exacerbated already-high rates of depression, anxiety, and other types of mental illness among all populations, but one group has been disproportionately impacted: teenagers. In fact, suicide is now the second leading cause of death for 10-19-year-olds, and suicide rates have increased a staggering 45% since 1999.
Two mental health organizations serving the west-suburban community decided it was time to offer a new approach to addressing teens’ mental health needs. Pillars Community Health and NAMI Metro Suburban collaborated to establish The Loft at Eight Corners (The Loft), a space for teen mental wellness. The Loft serves as a safe space where high-school-aged teens—and their families—can go while experiencing a mental health crisis and/or when they need to talk to someone who understands what they are going through.
Due to many factors, it takes young people an average of 11 years of struggling before they seek treatment. Those who do seek treatment may be unable to access it due to the pronounced shortage of behavioral health providers, insufficient insurance, high costs, or other factors. Regardless of the cause, rather than receive ongoing support, many teens wait until they are in crisis then go to hospital emergency rooms (ERs), an expensive and unsustainable option.
The Loft aims to address this problem. Although similar community drop-in crisis centers (or “living room” models) exist for adults, this is the first one in the region created for and by teens. A working Teen Advisory Committee has been involved in all decision-making, ensuring teen voices are not only heard, but are at the center of The Loft’s programming.
Every day from 1-8 PM, teens and their families can access a variety of individual and group services in both English and Spanish—all offered free of charge—including:
All services are designed to engage teens in their mental health journey and grow their confidence and skills so they can advocate for themselves. During the first full academic year, it is expected that 250 teens will participate in services. In addition to improving teens’ mental health outcomes and confidence, The Loft will reduce ER visits.
You can check out The Loft’s website at Loft8Corners.org which includes contact information, a list of services, a monthly calendar with group offerings, and more. The Loft is also on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok, and has been in local media including NBC 5 Chicago and CBS Chicago.
Our friends at Community Memorial Foundation—who have been involved in the project since the beginning—invited VNA Foundation to join them in supporting this critical and innovative community resource. VNA awarded a grant to Pillars Community Health to support staff salaries and our team was pleased to be a part of the grand opening celebration in March.
All of us at VNA are excited to witness The Loft’s impact on Brookfield teens, their families, and the larger community. We also hope this will be the first—and not the only—teen space for mental wellness model in the region.