I am thrilled that the Community Mental Health Board (CMHB) of Oak Park Township is moving its location, and mission, to the Community Recreation Center (CRC). As a person living with a mental health disorder, not only do I believe that physical and mental health are inextricably linked, but I also know that it takes work and exercise — mentally and physically — to feel good.

Our community — and our world — are suffering from the impacts of war, a pandemic, financial instability, and an overall sense of turmoil. People like me who live with a chronic mental health disorder are doing the best we can to manage our illnesses through these times. Even more people, who will never have a chronic disorder, are struggling with feelings of stagnation, despondence, and emotional exhaustion. This feeling of “languishing,” written about so eloquently by Adam Grant in his April 2021 New York Times article, is too often overlooked as society focuses on the two extremes of the mental health continuum — flourishing or crisis. 

CMHB has existed for nearly 50 years because the residents of Oak Park believe that there is no health without mental health. We recognize that mental health is a continuum, and that throughout life people may need additional assistance. While we do not provide treatment directly, we assess need, build collaboration, and fund evidence-based services to give Oak Park residents the tools they need to increase their mental health outcomes. Funded initiatives, including the collaboration between DePaul University and Elementary School District 97, help bring resources to where people are and eliminate the stigma associated with mental illness.

CMHB’s collaboration with the Park District of Oak Park is resulting in the construction of a Wellness Suite within the CRC, further increasing the visibility of mental health, substance use, and intellectual/developmental disability programs. CMHB will work with its funded (and unfunded) partners to bring education, referrals, and screenings to those who seek healthy options for the body and mind. 

CMHB is especially enthusiastic to bring in youth-focused resources. In its mission to provide “A Place to Belong,” the CRC will serve as a safe space for our youth, providing free after-school access and programming between 3 and 6 p.m. During these times, the Wellness Suite will offer opportunities to our partners, including NAMI Metro Suburban, YEMBA, Thrive, DePaul, Smart Love Family Services, Opportunity Knocks, Way Back Inn, and Youth Services of Oak Park Township, among others, to bring in educational programs.

We may be languishing, given our current state of affairs, and looking for ways to improve our mood and mental health. But we do have opportunities about which we can be optimistic. The partnership between CMHB and CRC to increase mental wellness is among these positive movements. 

We all have physical and mental health; it is important to exercise both so that we have ever opportunity to flourish.

Cheryl Potts, an Oak Park resident, is executive director of the Community Mental Health Board of Oak Park Township.

Join the discussion on social media!