State Leaders, Mental Health Advocates Gather for Mental Health Awareness Month

By: Ashmar Mandou

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Local NewsState leaders and mental health advocates gathered on Wednesday in Springfield to mark Mental Health Awareness Month and discuss ongoing state initiatives, such as the Children’s Behavioral Health Transformation Initiative, to improve services for people dealing with mental health issues and their families. “This Mental Health Awareness Month is an important reminder both that mental health challenges impact many Illinois families, and that help is available,” said Dr. Dana Weiner, Director of the Children’s Behavioral Health Transformation Initiative. “And more help is on the way, through the leadership of the Governor and our partners throughout state government. Where in the past navigating the mental health system has been enormously challenging, we are tearing down those roadblocks and giving families the tools to find the help they need.”

The Transformation Initiative was launched by Gov. Pritzker in March 2022 to improve access to mental health services for young people. Among the initiatives being developed by the Transformation team is the BEACON portal, a one-stop online resource connecting families to publicly funded mental health services that is slated to launch this summer. The Team is also developing a Mental Health Bill of Rights, a set of goals aimed at ensuring that all Illinoisans who need it have the ability to receive trauma-informed, evidence-based care. “Mental health is a vital component of a person’s overall well-being, and the Illinois Department of Human Services will continue to prioritize the access, availability, and effectiveness of mental health services in partnership with community organizations, local and federal government, and our sister agencies,” said Dulce M. Quintero, Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) Secretary Designate. “As the State Mental Health Authority, IDHS’s Division of Mental Health will continue to meet the needs of Illinoisians by assuring access to publicly funded behavioral health resources. We are especially excited about the Division of Mental Health’s partnership with Google to launch BEACON – the mental health service access portal for Illinois youth that will be coming online this summer.”

As part of Mental Health Awareness Month activities, the Transformation Initiative is also distributing materials to promote a sense of calm and wellness, including a collaborative Spotify playlist with songs from mental health advocates across the state. The materials also include tips on dealing with stress, using the acronym “AWESOME”–

Attention: Tune into your breath

Watch: Notice your thoughts

Embrace: Stay in the present moment

Sense: Savor sights, sounds, or tastes

Observe: Notice your surroundings

Move: Stretch or exercise your body

Experience: Get outside in nature

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