The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Metro Suburban and Pillars Community Health on March 13 opened the doors to The Loft at 8 Corners, a first-of-its-kind center dedicated to the holistic mental health of teenagers.
Over the past six months, NAMI and Pillars renovated the former yoga studio at 9045 Monroe Ave. in Brookfield into a welcoming space for high school students to access a host of mental health services, and where families can learn more about the range of strategies, tools and services available to them.
The Loft is open seven days a week, 365 days a year from 1 to 8 p.m. and is staffed with a team of mental health professionals. Teens and families can simply walk in or schedule times to visit. All services are free.
“This space is really an expansion, it’s a broadening of our continuum of services, everything from education to support to activities,” said Angela Curran, president and CEO of Pillars Community Health during a March 8 ribbon-cutting event to show off the center and thank a half dozen foundations, Proviso Township and Cook County Health for their financial support.
NAMI and Pillars Community Health also sought out teenagers to help them identify key elements, both visual and programmatic for The Loft – even getting input on its name.
Kimberly Knake, executive director of NAMI Metro Suburban, said they recruited students at Riverside-Brookfield High School and Proviso Township high schools to form a Teen Advisory Committee.
“They met over a few months led by [a consultant] to discuss their take on mental illness, the additional program offerings, renaming it from a working title of Teen Living Room to The Loft at 8 Corners, and working … on what they wanted the look and feel to look like,” Knake said.
Cook County awarded the initiative a $1 million grant, while additional funding came from the Community Memorial Foundation, Healthy Communities Foundation, Illinois Children’s Healthcare Foundation, Naffah Family Foundation, the VNA Foundation, Westlake Foundation and the Proviso Township Mental Health Commission.
“Our work here speaks to not only who we are as a local community but what we believe in as leaders, collaborators, friends and neighbors: To respond to a local need, to create a sense of belonging and to empower our youth so that they can be healthy and well,” said Greg DiDomenico, president and CEO of the Community Memorial Foundation.
Teens visiting The Loft will, after staff obtains necessary consent, will receive a mental health screening to determine the appropriate level of support, from access to education resources, support groups and classes to family support services to one-on-one support to crisis intervention.
The Loft includes rooms where private one-on-one counseling can take place, a larger room where families can meet privately with staff, a classroom, a living room-type area where teens can relax and a yoga studio.
Adrian Cardenas, who is Loft’s coordinator, oversees the day-to-day operation of the center, facilitates groups and assesses teens who may be experiencing a crisis to determine their level of care.
His team also includes three young adult recovery support specialists who work directly with teens, a family support specialist, an education manager and program manager.
He said The Loft’s team “will be there the whole step of the way, walking [teens] through [recovery].”
“We want to walk along in that journey with our teens and not do everything for them,” Cardenas said. “We want them to have that autonomy in their own recovery. If we do everything for them, they won’t know how to do that once they walk out of these doors. If we’re able to give them that power of choice … that is our ultimate goal and that’s how the inter-professional team will do that together.”
An important part of The Loft’s offerings are skill-building groups to help teens work through issues affecting mental health, from being mindful and fostering healthier interpersonal relationships to controlling emotions, solving problems and reducing stress.
“There is no one right way to work with your mental health,” Curran said. “No journey is the same, so our goal is really to expand this continuum as much as we possibly could.”
For more information, visit the center’s website at loft8corners.org.