In 2020, the lives of everyone in the world changed forever. As a community, we experienced a traumatic shared experience of an unknown virus that was spreading throughout the world and quickly killing millions of people.
Many people reported an increase in stress, anxiety, fear, sadness, and loneliness. And mental health disorders, including anxiety and depression, worsen for many people. As our lives shut down, many people were left behind in the chaos, especially individuals with disabilities.
In 2020, participants’ routines were suddenly altered as they were quarantined in their homes instead of attending their day programs. It had to respond quickly and effectively to support its participants and caregivers. Oak-Leyden’s participants were unable to see their family members and friends and, for a time, lost access to their doctors, therapists, and other support team members due to the shutdown. It is important for individuals with IDD to receive consistent services to prevent stagnation and regression.
Participants were expected to adopt a new way of daily living immediately by maintaining social distancing, wearing personal protective equipment, and more. A large number of participants struggled with adjusting to this change in routine, especially those individuals with limited verbal communication and those who depend heavily on consistent routines. These changes had a direct impact on their mental health.
Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make healthy choices. When individuals don’t receive appropriate treatment for mental illness, crises can occur. For the people we serve, ER visits, due to mental health and behavioral issues, have increased 4 times since before COVID.
Currently, the ER is the only option when a person is having a mental health crisis. The lack of mental health services in Illinois has resulted in an insufficient number of state hospital beds and low investment in community-based services. These issues have created barriers for people with mental illness seeking care. Instead of receiving the support an individual needs, they put a strain on our health care system.
Join Our Goal:
Oak-Leyden’s goal is to prevent and divert individuals with IDD and mental health illnesses from reentering higher levels of care including hospitals or psychiatric facilities.
The New Mental Health Program:
The Mental Health Program will be adding a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor (LCPC) to the team at Oak-Leyden who will lead group therapy and provide individual counseling. Many of Oak-Leyden’s participants have a dual diagnosis of IDD and mental health. The addition of an LCPC will help to provide more structured conversations to help accomplish the following goals:
- Participants will feel less lonely, isolated, or judged
- Reduce distress, depression, anxiety, and/or fatigue
- Improving skills to cope with challenges
- Staying motivated to manage chronic conditions and stick to treatment plans
The Mental Health Program will support over 100 participants as well as the Oak-Leyden community and surrounding communities.
How you can help:
By helping us start a dedicated mental health program, you will help over 100 people with disabilities in suburban Chicago get the support they need to live happy, fulfilling, independent lives - and come out of pandemic trauma with resilience. No dollar amount is too small. Donate today to support the Mental Health Program. 100% of donations (less the payment processing fee) will go to Oak-Leyden, a 501c3 not-for-profit organization.
Mental Health and IDD by the Numbers:
- Approximately 7 million people in the United States have an intellectual and/or developmental disability (IDD). Research shows that individuals with IDD experience a higher rate of mental health conditions.
- Around 33% of all individuals with IDD will experience a mental health condition at some point in their lifetime while it is estimated that around 21% of the general population will.
Vision: We envision a world where people of all abilities live their best lives.
Mission: Oak-Leyden serves children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families by providing individualized therapy, education, housing, job placement, and comprehensive services.
- Compassion – anticipate and see the need and respond with kindness
- Humility – be coachable, always listening and learning
- Integrity - keep your promises and own what you do
Impact Metric: By FY 25, Oak Leyden will directly serve over 1,000 people per year – a 67% increase over today.