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‘I Allow Myself To Cry’: Lightfoot Urges Chicagoans To Take Care Of Their Mental Health During Pandemic

The mayor announced initiatives for mental health to help people during and after the coronavirus crisis.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot at a press conference announcing a statewide stay-in-place order Friday, March 20.
Colin Boyle/ Block Club Chicago
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CHICAGO — Mayor Lori Lightfoot urged Chicagoans to embrace their feelings and find ways to care for themselves mentally during a press conference Thursday.

Lightfoot announced several initiatives for mental health during the press conference, saying the city is giving $1.2 million in funding to mental health organizations and is buying a telemedicine platform so mental health centers around the city can help Chicagoans remotely.

But the mayor also opened up about the way she’s caring for her own mental health during the crisis, saying she’s cried during the pandemic. She urged Chicagoans to allow themselves to do the same.

“I feel the weight of this moment every day. And, as a result, as part of my wellness routine, I’ve leaned into my faith even more. I make sure every day I have time just to be alone, to breathe and put the burdens of the day aside,” Lightfoot said. “I’m intentional about finding hope and love in the selfless acts of others.

“And I allow myself to cry and feel despair. That is also part of this moment. I don’t compartmentalize my grief, despair or fear, but I work very hard in acknowledging those very real and raw feelings, but also not to let them overwhelm me. And to be intentional every day to let myself heal and recover.”

Lightfoot’s remarks showed a softer side to the mayor, who has previously said it’s been difficult — though necessary — to call and console the families of people who died from coronavirus. She’s more often portrayed herself as a stern mother figure during the pandemic, reminding Chicagoans to stay home or risk her disappointment.

But Thursday’s focus saw Lightfoot and Dr. Allison Arwady, head of the Chicago Department of Public Health, focus on mental health, with both telling Chicagoans they should acknowledge their feelings and look for ways to care for themselves during the crisis.

“What we must not allow is fear to grip us and prevent us from being able to cope with this difficult time,” Lightfoot said.

The city’s funding is going to Friend Health, Healthcare Alternative Systems, Thresholds and Trilogy Behavior Healthcare, which will use the money to expand access to treatment, particularly on the West and South sides.

And the city is buying, a telemedicine platform, so its health centers in Bronzeville, Englewood, West Elsdon, Lawndale and River North will be able to offer mental health services to people who can’t or don’t want to come in for appointments. That will enable even more people to get treatment and to feel comfortable seeking it out for the first time, officials said.

The centers will be able to offer psychotherapy, psychiatry, case management services and more through the platform, which is free to everyone regardless of insurance or citizenship status.

The city has also partnered with Ten Percent Happier to create a site with information about meditation, podcasts and more that focus on mental wellness.

Block Club Chicago’s coronavirus coverage is free for all readers. Block Club is an independent, 501(c)(3), journalist-run newsroom.

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