Medill Newsmakers: Mental health therapist, local organization share tips, resources

Mental health therapist Jessica Love Jordan-Banks says these symptoms are signs a person should seek help for their mental health. (Taylor Woods/MEDILL)

By Taylor Woods
Medill Reports

The effects of COVID-19 and balancing everyday life have affected the emotional well-being of many, but there are ways for Chicagoans to connect and learn how they can balance their mental health. Mental health therapist Jessica Love Jordan-Banks discusses mental health tips and exercises, and Patrick Dombrowski also explains the mental health services that the Community Counseling Centers of Chicago offers.

Video Transcript: 

Hello and welcome to Medill Newsmakers. I’m Taylor Woods.

The effects of COVID-19 and balancing everyday life have affected the emotional well-being of so many. Today we talk about creating those safe spaces so more people can become comfortable  discussing their mental health. Joining me today is Jessica Love Jordan-Banks, a therapist specializing in assisting adults in navigating everyday life challenges and interpersonal difficulties. 

WOODS: Jessica, thank you so much for joining me today and talking about the importance of mental health. First, I would like to begin with asking you, why is it so important to treat mental health?

JORDAN-BANKS: It’s highly treatable. People recover, and it’s a lot more common than we may imagine. So, the next-door neighbor, you know, our best friend may be struggling with something and is not having the conversation about mental health, and a lot of time kind of perpetuates the stigma that may prevent people from seeking help.

WOODS: With so many racial disparities connected to mental health, how can we create those safe spaces to make more people comfortable about talking about their mental health?

JORDAN-BANKS: Something that could help with that, one — so there’s a couple of different ways we look at it. We have to acknowledge that there’s a systemic issue, right, that create those health disparities that people experience. So acknowledging that on the system’s front, on a more micro level, person to person really having conversations like this, where we’re talking about, you know, factual information, and kind of normalizing the discussion.

WOODS: What are some of the signs and symptoms that a person should seek help for their mental health?

JORDAN-BANKS: So that’s a really good question. So if you’re familiar with the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, that’s what mental health professionals use to diagnose different disorders is probably about that. So there’s no way possible for anyone to memorize all of the symptoms that you could possibly experience. So I kind of grouped them into different categories. We have thoughts, symptoms, mood symptoms, physical symptoms that we can experience and behavioral symptoms. So with those thoughts, symptoms, something to kind of pay attention to, we all have a tendency to overthink about things that are important to us. But if it gets to the extent where it’s keeping you up, or making it difficult to kind of engage in your tasks of daily living, that may be something to get checked on. In terms of mood symptoms, feeling excessively sad or low for a long period of time. Prolonged feelings of anger or irritability, extreme mood swings, those are things to kind of check up on with physical symptoms. And maybe surprising, the things like headache, muscle tension, feeling fatigue, having digestive issues, those all can be associated with different mental health conditions, just showing up in the physical form. And then with behavior, the biggest thing I look at when I’m working with a client is what are their sleep patterns like and what are their eating patterns like? So with sleep patterns, something to pay attention to is having difficulty falling or staying asleep. With eating patterns, a lack of appetite or significantly increased appetite. So those are some of the things I kind of look out for. We said mood, not behavior.

WOODS: What are some tips and exercises that people can do throughout the day to help relieve stress?

JORDAN-BANKS: So one of the things that I find helpful is really taking a moment to pause, pause and kind of check in and assess where we are and what we need at the moment. So a pause could be something as simple as, you know, you’re getting ready to work, pausing for three seconds, taking a few deep breaths. And then continuing on with whatever you’re going to do. Something else that could be helpful: kind of refocusing in on things that we can’t control. So we tend to experience worry or anxiety about things that fall outside of our control. And that’s usually what other people do, what other people say, you know, what’s happening in the world around us. But when we bring that focus back into us, which is about the only thing we can control, you know, and start to not necessarily manage but think about how we want to respond to what’s happening around us. And in a lot of ways that can reestablish a sense of peace. You know, when the world feels like everything is out of control, we can return to that internal control. Some less abstract things that we can do: deep breathing, for sure, stretching, you know. There are 1,000,001 different guided meditations you can access on YouTube for free. And then just kind of putting your mask on first. I know when life gets busy, and we’re juggling multiple responsibilities, usually our self-care is the first thing that goes out the window as we’re trying to pack those things. But the kicker with that it’s us that’s balancing things, and if we fall apart, or we’re ill or unwell, none of those other things get done. So making sure that we kind of prioritize our self-care. Take care of ourselves first so we can take care of everything else.

WOODS: Chicago has several mental health centers across the city. One of the largest organizations is the Community Counseling Centers of Chicago. Patrick Dombrowski is the chief clinical officer. He has been with C4 since 2018 and oversees crisis programs within the community and hospital. I talked to him about C4’s responsibility and resources the organization offers to Chicagoans.

Hello, Patrick, thank you so much for joining me today. It’s so good to have you. I am very passionate about mental health, and I know that the city of Chicago has a lot of mental health resources available in the in the city, and you are part of the community counseling centers of Chicago. And if you could tell me in what ways does the Community Counseling Centers of Chicago help the community?

DOMBROWSKI: We are a mental health agency as you know. We’re now celebrating our 50th year in existence. And really our mission-based approach is supporting individuals with mental health needs and communities in the Chicago area with a focus largely on the West Side of Chicago and the North Side of Chicago, as you had mentioned. You know that there are a lot of resources in Chicago, but certainly we could use more. Likely there isn’t enough. The needs for mental health services are incredibly great. Our focus largely is around developing programs and providing services from a community perspective. So we do a lot of work with individuals that have severe mental illness that require support with the other activities of daily living and just provide services to ensure that they remain stable within the community. We also do significant amount of work with children, and both within schools and the larger community, and do a significant amount of crisis work as well as providing crisis assessment and stabilization services across both the West and North Side of Chicago as well.

WOODS: If you could please tell me more about some of the programs and services that the Community Counseling Centers of Chicago has to offer?

DOMBROWSKI: So we provide outpatient therapy, both in-person and telehealth of our lowest level of support, which is just talk therapy largely. But even within our outpatient program, we have a wide range of services. We have a team that specializes in sexual trauma. We also have a team that specializes in providing support to older adults as well, and our youth outpatient services, which we provide largely at our Humboldt Park location to individuals on the West Side, is designed to really work with the entire family systems. As I noted before, C4 has a significant investment during crisis work. We have crisis lines, we have all of our locations available to take kind of like walk-in crisis needs. It’s additionally, we’re the largest provider of SASS services in the Chicago area covering centrally from Roosevelt Road all the way up to Lake Cook County Road. Serving most of the West Side and on the North Side of Chicago, those services involve not only going out and meeting somebody that requires somebody to come talk to them about whether they’re suicidal or just feeling off their baseline and having a loss of equilibrium to hopefully stabilize the crisis. Additionally, if there is a need to hospitalize, facilitate hospitalization and our work doesn’t end there. You know, once we engage somebody that is having a crisis episode, now that we work to stabilize, and then if there is a need for longer term services, connect them. As I also mentioned to you, we do quite a bit of work, intensive case management, providing group therapy, pays services, psychiatry services and just general support to ensure that people that we serve that have mental health needs are stable in the community and don’t require needing support through either nursing home care or hospitalizations.

WOODS: When are those group therapy sessions? Are they open to the public, or you must be some type of member or patient to have access to those group therapy sessions? 

DOMBROWSKI: Yes. Currently, all the groups that we run are designed for people that are actively receiving services, whether that’s through outpatient or in one of our more intensive programs. We do have definitely an interest in expanding our group services. We’re exploring the potential of having more intensive, they’re called IOP programming, that really is designed around kind of short-term group therapy, but as of now they are largely just designed for current clients.

WOODS: Wow, it seems like the Community Counseling Centers of Chicago has a lot to offer, especially with its own hospital and outpatient services. How can people access these resources?

DOMBROWSKI: Yes, to access services at C4, you would call our intake line, which is 773-769-0205. Or you can also go on our website, which is And there is a section of our webpage where you can request somebody, you know, our intake staff reach out to you about our services available. Largely because very much, we are a mission-driven agency. You know, our history is serving individuals that have Medicaid are often underserved. A big cornerstone of the work that we do is really in fighting for health equity, for communities that haven’t gotten that aren’t receiving adequate services. Our approach to the work that we do really is keeping in mind this mission value to ensure that we’re providing services to the underserved.

We have crisis services capacity at all our locations. So if someone needs, we can respond to them.

WOODS: I hope you learned more about the importance of mental health and all the programs Chicago has to offer. Thank you for watching Medill Newsmakers. I’m Taylor Woods. Have a good day.