If the COVID-19 pandemic exposed the need for everyone to be cognizant of attending to their mental health, it very much revealed just how important it is not to discount how the pandemic impacted younger people.

While the pandemic upset everyone’s life, it was particularly hard on children who were suddenly disconnected from their peers and social structure during a time when they are trying to navigate a time of life when connections are made and fostered with people of their own age and the wider world.

So, the new teen mental health center The Loft at 8 Corners in Brookfield, a partnership involving NAMI Metro Suburban and Pillars Community Health, could not have come at a better time.

In development for at least the past six months, The Loft is the result of cooperation from a network of people, nonprofit foundations, township and county health agencies who provided critical funding, expertise and guidance. 

The effort actively included input from the constituency The Loft is meant to serve – high school age teens – and it is staffed by young adults, who trained in assessing mental health and who can recommend appropriate mental health services, many of which include connecting teens to peer support groups and classes, to one-on-one and family counseling and up to and including crisis intervention.

The Loft’s services are free and are available to high school age teens 365 days a year, from 1 to 8 p.m. You can simply walk in or schedule an appointment; the goal is making teens experiencing mental health issues or crises comfortable and welcome in seeking the help they need.

Teens don’t have to go it alone, either. Their families are welcome to learn with them and partner in their recovery journey. Ultimately, The Loft seeks to provide teens with tools they need to recognize when they are experiencing mental health issues and how to cope with them.

NAMI has long offered adults “living room” type settings, welcoming and comfortable, to help those over the age of 18 address mental health issues. But mental health is not an adults-only issue, and addressing teen mental health is especially vital in providing ways for those teens to move into full adulthood to help themselves.

As far as we know, this center is a first in the Chicago region, and as the model matures our hope is that NAMI and Pillars Community Health can roll out similar teen mental health centers in other places within the communities the agencies serve.

But The Loft at 8 Corners is a great start and a welcome addition to the communities here.