EIN: 36-2605412

Teen Gambling Risks

A significant body of research shows that young brains are often the most impressionable and that presence of addictive substances can drastically alter and stunt normal brain tissue development. The influence of these substances can have both immediate social and behavioral consequences, as well as far reaching health impacts that can affect a person for decades to come. The risk of substance use for teens is well known, and talked about with parents, caregivers, and educators. So, why is it that gambling is often left out of this conversation?
It seems like more and more, tech companies and advertising firms want people on their phones as much as possible. While many adults feel they are “immune” to this kind of aggressive marketing technique, often the most vulnerable are kids and young adults.

Dr. Timothy Fong, co-director of University of California, Los Angeles’ Gambling Studies Program, said in 2022, “Young people are significantly at higher risk of developing gambling disorder than adults, in part because their brains are not fully developed. Their ability to evaluate risk, their ability to handle loss, isn’t as secure as an adult.” The International Centre for Youth Gambling Problems and High-Risk Behaviors reports approximately 4-6% of high schoolers have a serious gambling problem. An additional 10-14% are considered at risk for developing disordered gambling.

Gambling in high school, while illegal, can take form in any number of ways. Games of chance and poker, dice, gifted scratch-off and other lottery tickets, and even borrowing access to online gaming apps are all common ways for a young person to gamble. For many it is the simple thrill of small wins and does not escalate much beyond that point. However, sometimes early “big” wins can propel a person to invest more time and energy to continue chasing their next windfall. Some signs and symptoms of teens experiencing gambling harm are:

  • Lost and stolen money and objects of value
    •  Often teens do not fully grasp the impact of their gambling costs. They are not able to see the signs that they have or are about to lose money. Teens may become more tightlipped about their finances. They be unable to explain why they have accumulated both debt or large sums of cash. This can look like repetitively borrowing money without repayment, depleted bank accounts, and/or stealing money from friends and family. Teens may also begin to sell personal belongings so they can continue to gamble. In some cases, teens will “barter” objects of value to offset their debts with peers.
  •  Constantly playing games
    • Teens are impressionable and can often get hooked early on by video games quickly. This includes traditional gambling platforms like casino games, video poker, and lottery tickets, but also general video games and fantasy sports. You might notice a sudden, increased interest or obsession with sports scores and heightened reactions to gaming outcomes as signs of disordered gambling.
  • Behavioral changes
    • Behavioral changes can include changes in appetite, loss of interest in activities, poor performance in school and/or at work, new or worsening school troubles, friend group fallouts, and at times unexplained injuries or physical altercations with peers. Teens may also have unexplained absences from school.

Some ways you can help a teen in your life with understanding the risks of gambling are:

  • Have a conversation with them about gambling risks.
    • With the increase of accessibility to gambling products and services, it is important to educate yourself and your teens about safer ways to gamble and the risks. It is more impactful to be proactive in these conversations than reactive.
  • Monitor their gaming and browsing history.
    • Often teenage mobile and online games are linked back to their caregiver’s credit cards and banking accounts. Make sure to check your statements often for increased transactions to online games your teen is playing. Loot-crates and in-app purchases to advance in a game can become addictive to teens. If you find your teen is frequenting online betting sites, have a conversation with them about why they are using these sites, what they are getting out of it, and how these actions are impacting them financially. This may be a sign they need to quit gambling or look into additional resources for assistance.
  • Examine your own betting practices.
    • It is important to lead by example for teenagers. Often they may model behaviors they see at home. Apply your education about gambling risks, evaluate your own gambling behaviors, and set a positive example for your teen so they can set reasonable gambling limits as well.

There is never any shame in seeking help when you or your loved ones are experiencing harm from gambling. It is important to seek professional help for gambling as it can have life-long, serious consequences emotionally, physically, and financially. National Problem Gambling Screening Day is 3/12. A free resource that is used by professional counselors is available at the following link: https://e.helplineil.org/screener/. This screening tool is quick and easy to follow.

If you or a loved one wants to talk about the results of the screen, or are experiencing gambling difficulties, mental health challenges, and/or substance use concerns, please contact Nicasa Behavioral Health Services at 847-546-6450 or info@nicasa.org. Whether someone is just starting to gamble, is beginning to experience challenges, or has serious concerns about their gambling or the gambling of a loved one, access to help is available 24/7/365 – it is free and confidential. Illinois helpline staff can be reached 3 ways: phone: 1-800-GAMLBER; text: GAMB to 833234; chat: www.areyoureallywinning.com

Nicasa also offers trainings and classes on gambling. These workshops are available to all who serve Illinois residents of any age. Follow the link to learn more information and register: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSc02SXbTlL7SMZIlhKobGuqHsucIlh1VlO5YjliVG5x_k-KPA/viewform

February is Teen Dating Violence Prevention and Awareness Month

All relationships exist on a spectrum. What might work for one person, might not work for someone else. That is what makes relationships so unique and special. However, it is important to recognize that all healthy relationships have the same building blocks: communication, respect, trust, honesty, and equality. When these blocks are missing, it may lead to some disharmony and to more extreme cases of abuse.

Relationships can be difficult to navigate for many adults, but teens often are the most vulnerable to abuse due to a lack of understanding, experience, and resources. The CDC reports (2023) that experiencing dating violence in high school can put an individual at higher risk of being revictimized during college. Other consequences include depression and anxiety symptoms, developing unhealthy coping strategies like nicotine, vaping, and/or alcohol use, displaying antisocial behaviors like lying, theft, bullying, and physical intimidation or violence, and thoughts of suicide.

“I just feel so betrayed. He said he’d protect me, and now… I’m just scared of him all the time. I don’t know what he’s going to do next, or how he’ll react when I tell him. I’m going stay until he’s happier. Then I’ll break up with him.”

Teens often develop their ideas of dating at home first. They watch and observe the relationship models in their lives then go out to replicate them. The Office on Women’s Health states, “a boy who sees his mother being abused is ten times more likely to abuse his female partner as an adult. A girl who grows up in a home where her father abuses her mother is more than six times as likely to be sexually abused as a girl who grows up in a non-abusive home (2021).” Often violence and abusive behaviors are first learned at home and from other close, trusted authority figures. This can lead to a variety of maladaptive behaviors, but also lead to some individuals repeating these behaviors when exploring connections and relationships as a teenager and adult.

“She’s so controlling. Like, she’s constantly accusing me of cheating. I didn’t even do anything, but she always needs to know where I am and who I’m with. I’m so tired of it, but I love her so much.”

From the CDC (2020), 26% of women and 15% of men who experienced intimate partner violence as adults reported that their first experience was before the age of 18. While many teens often do not talk about it directly, from a caregiver and parent perspective there are some warning signs that can help you identify when a relationship is becoming unhealthy or abusive.

  • Using insults, intimidation, or humiliation
  • Extreme jealousy, insecurity, or controlling behavior
  • Isolation from friends and family
  • Unwanted sexual contact
  • Explosive temper or unusual moodiness
  • Constantly monitoring social media and needs access to location at all times
  • Invasions of privacy and/or showing up unannounced
  • Unwanted gifts, items, or flowers
  • Misusing over the counter substances or illegal substances
  • Threating or causing physical violence
  • Thoughts of suicide

Any one of these warning signs is enough cause for concern. Caregivers and parents can help safeguard a teen and help protect them from dating violence. These conversations can be difficult to have due to stigma, emotional involvement, and general misinformation about what healthy relationships look like. Here are some tips on starting this conversation if you feel a teen in your life is experiencing dating violence:

  • Talk Honestly and Openly
    • Let them know what healthy relationships can look like while expressing violence is NEVER okay in any capacity.
  • Educate Yourself on Teen Dating Violence
    • Look for local support groups, or resources for help. Learn more about the warning signs of domestic violence and related statistics
  • Pay Attention
    • Whether or not your teen verbally tells you what is happening, they may be communicating with you in other ways. Watch for changes in their moods and behaviors, changes in their grades, loss of interest in activities, changes in friend groups, or feeling like they are being watched. Sometimes there can be physical changes like altering appearances, unexplained bruises, or changes to eating habits as well.

Establishing healthy relationships from an early age is important to help teens identify when things are okay. Some additional resources to learn more about dating violence are:

If you or a loved one needs additional support with mental health or substance use due to intimate partner abuse or dating violence, please contact Nicasa Behavioral Health Services at 847-546-6450 or email info@nicasa.org

Mental Wellness in 2024 – 24 Tips to Turn Into Habits

January isn’t only for setting New Years Resolutions, but it is also Mental Wellness Month. This focus helps people prioritize their mental health while exploring new ways to increase their overall wellness. Mental Wellness is more than just the absence of mental illness or mental concerns. It is about promoting healthy strategies to increase your sense of wellbeing and prevention. It is also about shifting from stigmatizing people for their challenges with mental health and restoring a sense of shared humanity with others. Mental wellness works to promote awareness, prevention, and changing attitudes about prioritizing mental concerns, like we do with physical concerns, while extending compassion towards people.

Nicasa Behavioral Health Services has 24 tips to help promote wellness throughout 2024. While working on the practice of mental wellness, we encourage everyone to pick tips that work well for their lifestyle. Start off slowly with intention and you can build upon your progress throughout the year. When starting a new habit, it is important to not get discouraged by a lack of immediate results or progress fallbacks.

Life happens. Keep at it and don’t give up!

  1. Talk to someone.
    1. Now is always the right time to talk to someone if you need help. Don’t put it off any longer and stop minimizing your concerns. Your problems are real because they are real to you. You owe it to yourself to find a trusted person to talk about them with. While talking may not resolve the issue immediately, it does strengthen your resolve to find a better solution for them.
  2. Practice self-compassion.
    1. Compassion means: a strong feeling of sympathy and sadness for the suffering or bad luck of others and a wish to help them. Self-compassion is turning that definition inward to extend yourself the same sympathy and wish to help that you show others. This can be incredibly healing while also assisting in reframing your internal dialogue of how you see yourself.
  3. Practice mindfulness.
    1. Carve out a few minutes each day to practice mindfulness. You do not need to do a full meditation, but practice being present, in the moment, and letting your thoughts go without immediate reaction. It can be a challenge at first, especially if stressed out, but with practice you will get better at it.
  4. Redecorate.
    1. New year, new you! Don’t wait until spring to freshen up your space. Often a cluttered, disorganized space can cause increased anxiety and avoidance to deal with other tasks. Find new ways to organize your space. There are a ton of cheap, DIY projects online that can allow you to add more of your personality back into your home.
  5. Practice deep breathing.
    1. Deep breathing is a great way to refocus your mind. Practicing deep breathing can help you gain a sense of control and balance, while focusing your attention on things that are within your control. Take time to practice while making decisions, or to recenter yourself after a long day at work.
  6. Journal.
    1. Journaling can be anything! It can be elaborate, simple, or electronic. You can practice creating your own writing templates, or using a blank note book you bought from Dollar Tree. You can even create sketches, paintings, and collages to represent your thoughts. The act of journaling allows you to record your thoughts and daily activities as you see them. It is a time for yourself, to reconnect with your thoughts and inner self.
  7. Exercise.
    1. Exercise in the gym, at home, or around your neighborhood. Sometimes when starting to work out, people will often create their own barriers—like needing an expensive gym membership, extra workout clothing, new equipment, etc. Keep the goal simple: to invite more physical activity into your life. Small steps can build up to bigger progress. Start with what objects around you, or explore new exercise programs. After you find something you enjoy, then you can consider investing into it.
  8. Practice gratitude.
    1. Showing gratitude can enhance your enjoyment of day-to-day activities, and improve your mental health. It can help ground you back to things that bring you joy, while noticing the everyday details that are often overlooked when bogged down by stress.
  9. Limit caffeine and alcohol.
    1. Limiting caffeine can be difficult when there are so many hidden sources in our food and drinks. Keep in mind, when healthcare providers reference a “standard serving size” a serving of coffee is 8oz with 80-100 milligrams of caffeine, and a drink of 14 grams of pure alcohol (approximately 12oz beer, 5oz wine, 8oz malt liquor, and 1.5oz spirits). Record your daily habits with caffeine and alcohol and set reasonable goals to start with. Remember to be honest with yourself while setting these goals and expectations for success, there will be days where it is easier to cut back than others but make sure you are keeping yourself accountable to this new goal.
  10. Work on incorporating more nutrient-dense foods, and being mindful of habits around meal times.
    1. After the holidays, dieting should be easy, right? With the holidays fueling overindulgence, you might feel like you are so full you might not eat again until February anyways. Many people struggle to adhere to a calorie deficient diet in the winter due to our natural biological response to cold weather and perceived natural scarcity that winter causes. Many people also struggle with fasting diets, fad diets, and restrictive diets. Sometimes it is easier to start with a food log of things you eat in a typical month, and create modifications based on foods you already like and ways to make snacking healthier than eliminate your favorite items.
  11. Get more sleep.
    1. Sleep eludes many people all year round. It’s tough with daily stressors creeping into your dreams. Sometimes the food and drink choices we make while awake follow us into bed. Caffeine and alcohol often cause people to stay up for longer than they anticipated. Some prescription medications can throw off your circadian rhythm as well. Try to limit your consumption of food and drinks that contain stimulants. Also creating a sleep routine, limiting blue-light from electronics, and kicking the television out of your bedroom can help.
  12. Meditation and Yoga.
    1. Yoga and Meditation are a powerful blend of self-compassion, mindfulness, and exercise. Sometimes yoga can be a series of stretches that can improve your flexibility. Don’t let the laid-back nature of the practice fool you though, there are some variations of yoga that are high-intensity workouts, in high-heat and humid rooms, and with animals. Wherever your practice takes you, yoga and meditation are often joined together because they synergize the body and mind while allowing the practitioner space to clear their heads while focusing on being present in the moment.
  13. Set boundaries to improve relationships.
    1. Setting boundaries isn’t meant to block people out, they are meant to communicate what you are comfortable with. More importantly, communicating what you are uncomfortable with in a direct way. Everyone has boundaries regardless of how they are communicated. Some people also have different boundaries for different people, or for different places. Only you can decide what is an appropriate boundary for you and how it gets communicated to others. An example: At a holiday party a family member repeatedly said something inappropriate to your partner, and in the moment, you may not have said anything for fears of making the situation worse for your partner or with other family members. You may choose to communicate to that person a few weeks later that you are not okay with how they addressed your partner and in the future you will leave the gathering if they do not show them the same respect they show you. Thus, establishing a clear boundary when you feel safer to do so and a consequence for going over it.
  14. Take a break from social media.
    1. Doomscrolling is a modern phenomenon in which someone binges potentially negative content on the internet or social media apps (WebMD). Doomscrolling and obsessive social media checking can increase anxiety, depression, and overall have a negative impact on your mental health. Set limits to how long you use social media or limit the kinds of content you allow yourself to view.
  15. Hydrate.
    1. Staying hydrated can make you feel better, inside and out. If you normally do not drink water, getting in 2.7 to 3.7 liters of water can be overwhelming. Increase your amount slowly and explore water flavorings. Try adding frozen fruit into your water inside of ice cubes, or cold brew herbal tea bags—just check to see if they have caffeine in them so you know how much you are consuming throughout your day. Find what works for you.
  16. Be outside more and bring nature inside with plants.
    1. House plants help to establish house care routines and liven up a space. Talk to a local green house to see what plants are native to your area, or if your green thumb is more on the brown side, what plants are more forgiving to beginners. Gardening outdoors can also improve your mood as well as your appreciation for your home. Hiking and outdoor walks are also a great way to connect with nature and improve your mental health.
  17. Play music and dance.
    1. Research has shown listening to music can decrease feelings of anxiety and depression, improve memory, sleep quality, mental alertness, and decrease blood pressure (org). Throw in dancing and you have great physical activity to improve your mood. Dance like no one is watching or learn to ballroom dance with your partner. However you do it, including music into your daily routine can help get you into a better headspace.
  18. Limit how much you multitask.
    1. Even though many jobs seem to require it, multitasking can take a toll on you mentally. Regular multitasking can lead to cognitive loss, memory problems, loss in productivity, increased anxiety and social anxiety, chronic stress, and errors that can harm yourself and others around you (com). Even though society has come a very far way, our brains are still only made to handle one task at a time. Even with people who proclaim they are excellent multitaskers, their brains still have to make the same adjustments to switch between tasks and make the reward analysis decisions which slow everyone down—leading to a loss in productivity and errors in work. Try to limit how much and when you multitask. Like avoid talking on the phone while driving in a car or completing several complex tasks at once (working on a report while scheduling appointments).
  19. Set goals.
    1. Set realistic goals that do not have an “all-or-nothing” catch to them. Example of all or nothing goals are, “I’m going to workout every day,” “I’m going to grow my business by 200%,” or “I’m never going to eat out again.” These goals do not account for life-events that may get in the way of their achievements, and many people are immediately discouraged by fallbacks in progress. Goals should be something to help set new habits and make improvements that are appropriate to your life.
  20. Celebrate achievements.
    1. Life has many reasons to celebrate successes. Celebrate a promotion, completing a certificate program, avoiding a bad habit, and/or reaching a recovery milestone. Celebrating small achievements can keep you motivated as you work your way to bigger ones.
  21. Plan a vacation or a getaway.
    1. Making a plan gives you something to look forward to. When you are looking forward, there is hope that better days are coming soon. Making plans can increase positive feelings and decrease depression and anxiety. Even if it is a small weekend getaway, getting out of your normal routine every once in a while, is good for your mental health.
  22. Try something new.
    1. Try a new workout class, take an art class, or try out a DIY home décor tutorial for beginners. Learning a new skill can make you feel empowered, increase your self-esteem, and decrease feelings of depression and anxiety. Remember, being bad at something is the first step to being good at anything. A project flop is a fun story, and sometimes can create an even more interesting piece than a successful one.
  23. Practice forgiveness.
    1. Forgiving is hard. It’s hard to forgive others, and at times it is even harder to forgive yourself. Work on ways to incorporate forgiveness into your mental health journey. If you cannot forgive the person or situation that happened, then work on forgiving yourself to carry that experience differently with you. Eventually it will become easier with time.
  24. Work towards bringing balance into your life.
    1. Striking a balance can be an interesting opportunity to fold in all the new habits you want to create into your established routine. If you find that work is consuming more time away from doing the things you want to do, or being with the people you want to be with, then find ways to build balance there. Sometimes it is not practical to cut back on hours, but work on finding ways to leave without bringing it home.

Nicasa’s Teen Court and GivingTuesday

Nicasa Behavioral Health Services is proud of the work our Teen Court program does for the youth of Lake County, IL. Since the program started in 1996, more than 5,820 youths have been helped with making positive lifestyle changes that they will use for the rest of their lives. The is almost the population of Highwood, IL!

That is an entire community of teens aged 13 to 17 years old who participated in a balanced and restorative justice program without going through costly administrative hearings and receiving a criminal charge that could follow them the rest of their lives. These teens did commit criminal acts, but through Teen Court they connected with an actual jury of their peers, learned to connect meaning with behaviors, received support for their mental health and underlying causes for their maladaptive coping strategies, and found a way to make positive, healthy lifestyle changes they could carry with them the rest of their lives. Teen Court does not use punitive methods of atonement for wrongdoing, but works with the youth in the community to help them achieve a brighter future of which they could not see a way of achieving on their own.

Teen Court also helps the teens learn an important skill that even some adults struggle with, making amends and apologizing for wrong actions. Teen participants connect meaning to their behaviors while learning how their actions harmed others. Many youth participants see how their actions have directly impacted another person and see the cost (monetary and/or emotional) to restore what was broken. The teen participants work alongside the victim to help with healing from their transgression, and the victim feels heard by the community.

Teen Court is 100% privately funded. It does not receive any state or federal grant funding, but rather it is directly funded by the community it supports, because it works. It has a historic success rate in Illinois, and a proven track record of rehabilitation for the youth who participate in the program. Not only that, but the volunteer peer jurors also learn invaluable skills on how to build community connections, empathy, gaining perspective on just how large and diverse their community is, leadership skills, as well as first-hand experience with the legal system.

During the giving season, Nicasa participates in GivingTuesday, a global leader in fundraising efforts for nonprofits and grassroots community organizations. This initiative allows us to amplify our community voice as well receive recognition for our program’s hard work. During GivingTuesday Teen Court receives a fundraising match from the Healthcare Foundation of Northern Lake County of $10,000 for any new and/or increased donations from November 21st through December 19th.

If you are interested in donating, please follow the link here: https://nicasa.org/donate/  or text TEENCOURT to 707070 for other ways to give.



National Homeless Youth Awareness Month

In 2021, the Senate recognized November as National Homeless Youth Awareness Month. Many children across Illinois, and the United States, do not have stable, safe homes. Many are also unaccompanied—meaning they are not with a legal guardian or parent while they are unhoused. These children often are absent from school, missing important milestones, and are at a significantly increased risk of being the victim of drug-related and/or violent crimes due to their vulnerability.

Nationally, only 1 in 4 students who experience housing insecurity will graduate from high school.  Chicago Public Schools reported serving 16,451 unhoused students during the 2018-19 school year. Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago, an independent research partner at the University of Chicago that provides rigorously researched data to public and private sectors as well as policymakers to better support children, families, and communities, conducted several national surveys between 2017 to 2018 that revealed the complexity of this issue.

Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago had 5 major findings from this work with unhoused youths:

  1. Youth homelessness is a board and hidden challenge.
  2. Youth homelessness involves diverse experiences and circumstances.
  3. Prevention and early intervention are essential.
  4. Youth homelessness affects rural youth at similar levels.
  5. Some youth are at greater risk of experiencing homelessness.

Chapin Hall’s findings also provided important case studies, including youths telling their stories of how they became unhoused. Sharing these stories is an important human element that is often lost in the granular nature of data collection and extraction. These first-hand experiences paint a picture of children and teens fighting for survival, family support, and a better future that is clouded by the overbearing presence of having unreliable shelters, food insecurity, threats of physical violence, mental and emotional abuse, and mental health stigmas. These children are put into a tough situation most adults are incapable of getting out of alone. Often these children report increased use of substances or develop problems regulating how much they are consuming to escape the daily struggles of their lives, and/or trading sexual favors for basic necessities.

Often when they are picked up and held by juvenile detention centers, they report a sense of relief for having a stable environment for a moment—much like adults who experience being unhoused.

Nicasa Behavioral Health Services recognizes that homelessness is comprised of diverse, complicated issues that disproportionately affect people of color, people living in or near poverty, LGBTQIAA+ communities, and many other historically underserved populations. These communities also are the most likely to experience negative health outcomes and often are forced into desperate situations to simply survive. Nicasa sees how this unfairly contributes to perceived delinquent behavior and recognizes that being unhoused, and other social and environmental factors may influence a youth’S decision to commit a non-violent crime in order to secure food, temporary shelter, or other basic necessities. We are committed to providing and finding resources for anyone unhoused or at risk of becoming unhoused in Lake County, IL. We work to break down the barriers of care and stigmas with receiving support.  We also strive to bring restorative justice to the youths in Lake County through Nicasa’s Teen Court that may be experiencing maladaptive survival instincts and external pressures that may result in further delinquent behaviors.

Nicasa’s Teen Court program is an important part of holistic care that views youth through a lens where criminal behavior is a symptom of a deeper problem. Teen Court accomplishes this by creating accountability for crime, connecting youth to individualized mental health and substance use care, providing training for better decision-making, developing new coping skills, and reducing re-arrest rates in Lake County. Nicasa also offers additional resources to youths who may be experiencing instabilities at home through our Family Advocacy Center. Nicasa Teen Court program directly addresses Chapin Hall’s third finding by providing prevention and early interventions to those in need of additional support. These services are critical early on because they can either entirely prevent the displacement or minimize the lasting effects of being unhoused.

For more information on Nicasa Behavioral Health Services, Family Advocacy Center and Services, Youth Services, and Teen Court programs please call 847-546-6450 or email info@nicasa.org.

Red Ribbon Week – 10/23 to 10/31

From October 23rd to October 31st is Red Ribbon Week. This week is dedicated to helping youths understand substance misuse as well as empower caregivers with knowledge and resources to have better conversations in the home about substance use.

The first Red Ribbon Week was created by The National Family Partnership, formerly the National Federation of Parents for Drug-Free Youth, to advocate and educate parents about drugs. This was in response to the murder of US DEA Agent Enrique “Kiki” Camarena in 1985 in Guadalajara, Mexico by Caro Quintero, co-founder of the now-disintegrated Guadalajara Cartel. Agent Camarena’s friends and neighbors started to wear badges of red satin to honor his memory after his untimely passing. Parents used Kiki as a role model for their coalitions to show a single person can make a difference. In 1988, the first Red Ribbon Week was held to commemorate Agent Camerena and educate about drugs. Today, the Red Ribbon serves as a catalyst to mobilize communities to educate youth and encourage participation in drug prevention activities (https://www.redribbon.org/).


This year’s theme is: Be Kind To Your Mind. Live Drug Free.

This theme was chosen because people every day make the choice to be their best selves by living drug free and establishing new healthy habits. For Nicasa Behavioral Health Services this is an important message for staff, community members, stakeholders, donors, current and former clients in recovery, and individuals across Lake County. Our Prevention Department works hard to educate children in 3 elementary schools (Wauconda, IL) 10 middle schools (Waukegan, Mundelein, Wauconda and Island Lake), and youth engaged in Community Youth Network’s (CYN) mentorship program with an evidence-based curriculum, Too Good For Drugs, on substance misuse. Too Good For Drugs works with children to develop skills for making healthy choices, building positive friendships, developing self-efficacy, communicating effectively, and resisting peer pressure and influence. It also works on developing character skills like: setting reachable goals, making responsible decisions, bonding with pro-social others, and identifying and managing emotions. The Prevention Department also organizes a “Stay Out of my Room” interactive display to educate parents and caregivers on where their children could be hiding substances and what do be on the lookout for. Nicasa also assists the Mundelein STAND-UP Task Force and Choose Your Path (Wauconda, IL) in providing consistent drug-free messaging.

During Red Ribbon Week our Prevention Department will be providing education and prevention services at the following places:

  • From October 23rd to October 31st, our Youth Advisory Board will have tables setup during lunch periods at Wauconda High School. At these tables they will have red strips of paper and will be asking fellow students to write down why they decide to remain drug free. The red slips of paper will then be made into paper chains and be displayed throughout the high school that week.
  • Tuesday October 24th, the Youth Advisory Board will be going to Wauconda Middle School to provide a Red Ribbon Week presentation to their entire 8th grade class. The presentation will focus on Red Ribbon Week, Prevention, and reasons the 8th graders should join the club when they come to the high school next year.
  • On October 25th, we invite everyone in the community wear red to support Red Ribbon Week. Please send us your stories and pictures to development@nicasa.org so we can share them on social media. You can also use hashtags: #BeKindToYouMindLiveDrugFree, #RedRibbonWeek, #Prevention, and #DrugFreeAmerica on social media.
  • Monday October 31st, Stand Up Mundelein will be at Mundelein High School for Boo-Bash. They will be handing out pledges and Red Ribbon material on staying Drug Free.

Here are some tips on talking with your teen about substance use:

If you are finding your child continually uses substances, even after talking with them and setting firm boundaries on the matter, if may be time for additional help. It is important to remember Red Ribbon Week is not only about awareness, but also advocacy and resources. Nicasa is committed to a drug-free youth. We are available to help assess the seriousness of the matter and help determine an appropriate level of care for children 12-years-old and older.

Call 847-546-6450 or email info@nicasa.org for more information about our youth services.

For more information on Red Ribbon Week, visit RedRibbon.Org

Celebrating Latinx Heritage Month

Why is National Latinx Heritage Month September 15th through October 15th?

Most American’s incorrectly assume “Mexican Independence Day” is May 5th every year. While Cinco de Mayo is a historically significant event for Mexico—Mexico defeating the Second French Empire at the Battle of Puebla in 1862—it is not as widely recognized as it is in the United States with an over commercialized celebration.

Many countries in Central and South America actually begin celebrating their independence days starting on September 15th. Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua all begin their celebrations on September 15th, Mexico follows on September 16th, Chile on September 18th, and Belize on September 21st. These celebrations and observances continue through October, including Día de la Raza on October 12th—the day Christopher Columbus landed in the Bahamas. During this month, Latinx Americans remember the history of their people, and breaking away from 300 years of brutal Spanish colonization of their homelands.

In Mexico, on the eve of September 16th the President rings the same bell Father Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla rung during the Grito de Dolores (Cry of Dolores) starting the Mexican War for Independence. Father Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla was a Roman Catholic priest who gathered mestizos and indigenous peoples to defend their homelands from The Spanish colonizers. Ultimately Father Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla was executed by the Spanish in 1811, but his revolutionary acts in his lifetime earned him the nickname The Father of Independence in Mexico.

Día de la Raza has been recognized since the 1920s in Central and South America to honor the indigenous peoples that lived there before the Spanish and Portuguese colonies. While it does directly translate to Day of Race, it is a celebration of cultural and ethnic groups in their countries to preserve their traditions, while sharing them with others. This is only a recent trend in North America, starting in 1992 to recognize the second Monday in October as Indigenous Peoples Day rather than Christopher Columbus Day.

Nicasa Behavioral Health Services is committed to eliminating health inequities and racial injustices in our behavioral health care and social services by creating safe service spaces, encouraging and promoting our bilingual services, and having a diverse staff available to meet the changing needs of our community. An important part of this work are the relationships and teamwork we have with all of our clients, staff, interns, donors, supporters, volunteers, Board of Directors, community partners, and more. We appreciate everyone’s efforts as we must come together as one to provide healthcare and services that are fair, equitable, accessible, and of a high quality for all people throughout Lake County.

Have a Happy and Safe Latinx Heritage Month!