Mental health programs offered to residents

Village of La Grange Park, NAMI co-host series over Zoom platform


Electronic flyer for series of wellness programs (photo courtesy of the Village of La Grange Park).

Ella Mahaney, Managing Editor

The Village of La Grange Park has always had a culture of wanting to care for the community and looks for opportunities to provide meaningful resources to its residents, Executive Secretary and Deputy Village Clerk Sandy Bakalich said.

In order to support members of the community, village members have created numerous outreach programs. In recent months, the Village of La Grange Park and NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Health) Metro Suburban teamed up to co-host four curated programs for the community. They focused on mental health, empathetic and active listening, stressing less, and resilience, along with burnout and self care.

“We wanted to create several programs that really could help support people who are enduring that added emotional, physical, and social stress or mental health struggles, due to the pandemic and other factors that kind of come along with it,” NAMI Metro Suburban Education Manager Joe Zuzuch said.

The planning for the programs started in the spring of 2021, with the first program taking place on Feb. 28, and the final one scheduled for May 16. The programs were held over Zoom and lasted about an hour. They were open to anyone in the community, free of charge. 

“[The program] is about letting everybody know about these resources that are available to them,” Bakalich said. “Whether it is for help dealing with stress, anxiety, or even just to understand how to better help somebody dealing with a mental health issue.”

During the Stress Less: Resilience for Success program, Zuzich talked about emotional and physical stressors, he said. He taught participants grounding exercises too, such as “five, four, three, two, one,” which helps a person connect with their senses and surroundings to make them feel safe. Participants were able to share what they were stressed about, so that they felt heard and not alone. 

“Mental health awareness is such an important topic and my hope is that we’re helping to shine a light on the wide range of available resources,” Assistant Village Manager Maggie Jarr said. “Hopefully this program encourages members of our community to focus on their mental health and practice mindfulness as a way to reduce stress and anxiety.”

In the first two programs, about 20 people were in attendance, Zuzich said. Participants were able to sign up through Eventbrite or join the Zoom meeting at the program’s start time. The village is open to co-hosting more programs like this one in the future alongside NAMI, Jarr said.