Special Report: Challenges with finding mental health help amid pandemic

The pandemic has taken a toll on area youth with an increase in mental health concerns and suicides.

There are so many people that need help that it is leading to bottlenecks in treatment.

A suburban mother realized she needed help for her 13-year-old, so she started bringing her to counseling when the normal troubles of being a teen collided with the stress of COVID-19.

"With her being a teenager and all the turbulence that brings, you know, you throw COVID on top of that, and I can’t even imagine having to go through that alone," said the mother.
"At this time, I’ve hired more full-time clinicians than I’ve ever hired," said Jennifer Froemel, LCPC.

Jennifer Froemel's practice in Chicago and the western suburbs, like many others, got a lot busier as mental health issues surged during the pandemic.
"I would say it’s a blend between both anxiety and depression. What we know is a depression untreated tends to go to anxiety, symptom wise," said Froemel.

At Lockport Township High School, counselors said they've had to screen more students for suicide, sometimes encountering waitlists to get those students into either inpatient or outpatient programs.   


The other trouble? Finding counseling close to home that works with your insurance plan.

That means a family might have to drive an hour or so to see a counselor because that is where their insurance is accepted. 

"So families aren’t necessarily going to want for a kid who lives in Lemont, on the south side in Frankfort, they’re not gonna want to send that kiddo all the way, you know, to Streamwood. That is definitely part of the problem we’re seeing," said Froemel. 

Dr. Judith Allen teaches free classes through Communities In Schools of Chicago called Mental Health First Aid.

She says watch out for changes in behavior or moods that linger beyond a couple days. Then, if you see something, say something, but skip the lecture and the judgment.

With an alarming increase in youth suicides and other mental health distress, Dr. Allen wants to train a network of eyes and ears to watch for potential trouble.

If you are having trouble finding mental health treatment for you or a family member, experts say talking to a school social worker is a good option.

Another good option is the employee assistance program where you work. 


If you or a loved one is feeling distressed, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. The crisis center provides free and confidential emotional support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to civilians and veterans. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (1-888-628-9495 for Spanish), or text HOME to 741-741 (Crisis Text Line)

CLICK HERE for the warning signs and risk factors of suicide. Call 1-800-273-TALK for free and confidential emotional support.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline:


https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/help-yourself/en-espanol (In Spanish/En Español)