Another Resource In The Books: Edgewater Branch Library Providing Free Mental Health Services

As of March 6, mental health services are being offered at the Edgewater Branch of the Chicago Public Libraries Tuesdays from 12 to 8 p.m. in partnership with the Chicago Department of Public Health.

As of March 6, mental health services are being offered at the Edgewater branch of the Chicago Public Libraries (CPL) Tuesdays from 12 to 8 p.m. This initiative is in partnership with the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH). 

The branch is located approximately 0.4 miles south of Loyola’s Lake Shore Campus at 6000 N. Broadway. 

This initiative is part of an effort by CDPH to increase community access to mental health services in the 77 community areas of Chicago, according to the CDPH website.

The effort began in 2019 with the election of Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot, who started the program as part of her framework for mental health equity, according to Alyssa Warren, assistant commissioner for mental health at CDPH. There are about 50 mental health workers who are involved with this program, according to Warren. 

Warren said the framework has four pillars, including an effort to bring mental health services into more public spaces in order to reduce the stigma around asking for assistance. 

Warren said the Edgewater branch was one of the first locations to open. Mental health services are also being provided at the branches in Mt. Greenwood, Beverly and Blackstone, with the hours of business listed on the CDPH website.

Danielle Pertiller is the clinical therapist in charge of the Edgewater Branch’s mental health services. She said she has been working as a clinical therapist for about a year and six months, and was first drawn to working as a therapist after experiencing a lack of access to mental health in her hometown.

Pertiller specializes in trauma counseling in adolescents. She said she plans to use this knowledge to create spaces for adolescents to discuss mental health issues they may be facing. 

Warren said when trying to decide where to put the first program, it was important to pay attention to which spaces within communities had the least access to mental health services. 

“We looked at where our CDPH mental health services are located, where our partners are located and where were the gaps,” Warren said.

About two to three different patients use the mental health services at the Edgewater Branch every week, according to Pertiller.

Kendra Mack, a first-year student, said she thinks mental health services are important for everyone, but college students in particular. 

“I think there is a lot of stress in college, and it’s most people’s first time being away from home so there can be lots of changes,” Mack said. “I think it’s important that there is a program, or somebody there to help when somebody needs it.”

According to Mack, off campus resources are important for colleges because students may not always be comfortable using the on campus resources provided to them. 

These services are available to anybody who requests them, free of charge, and walk-ins are welcome at any time during open hours, Warren said.

Services provided by the libraries will vary depending on the branch and the needs of the surrounding community, Warren said. She believes the importance of having these services available in a public space like a library lies in the privacy of its location.

“Anybody who feels like they want someone to talk to, they can go to their local library and talk to a trained clinician, receiving services that day,” Warren said. “If it is somebody who maybe feels a little bit more comfortable doing their weekly appointment in the library because they don’t want to have to tell anybody that they are going to therapy, it is easy for them to say, ‘Oh, I am just going to the library.’”

Pertiller said she believes having easily accessible mental health resources helps to reduce the stigma surrounding seeking help for mental health concerns.

Warren said CDPH doesn’t have a goal for the exact number of libraries they would like to open service locations in, as they first need to get an idea of where they are needed and the types of specific services people want. 

Healing and resources are the two things Pertiller said she hopes community members recognize as being available to them through the mental health services CDPH and CPL are providing. 

Off-campus options for mental health services are important resources for students to look into besides those at Loyola, according to David deBoer, director of counseling at the Wellness Center. 

“Community resources we make use of on a regular basis because we offer time limited individual therapy here and there are many things in both our medical and mental healthcare that are outside of the scope of what we can offer on campus,” deBoer said. “That is when we turn to our community partners. That’s a really important part of our treatment model.” 

Alina Matthew, a first-year student, said she thinks off campus resources in public spaces such as libraries are important because they allow further opportunities for students to get help when they need it.

“Many college students experience high stress levels, especially if they are feeling overwhelmed,” Matthew said. “I think if anyone is in need of help there should be access to it right away, and it should be something people are aware of.”

DeBoer said making students aware of mental health resources outside of those provided by the university is important for allowing them to continue to get the help they may need even after graduation. 

“They are a key part in the continuum of care,” deBoer said. “We are fortunate to live in a resource rich community that has the full range of levels of care.”

Featured image by Holden Green | The Phoenix

Lilli Malone

Lilli Malone