Naperville’s CAPS hosts mental health public safety presentation

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On Thursday, Naperville Citizens Appreciate Public Safety (CAPS) held a presentation on mental health and how community members can identify and support someone who is struggling.

The presentation at city hall was led by Naperville Police Chief Jason Arres and Naperville Police Department (NPD) counselor Eirene Boulougouris.

The Naperville Police Department receives almost 1000 calls

Arres stated that the NPD receives a high number of calls relating to mental health each year.

“The police department responds to almost 1,000 mental health-related calls every year. It continues to be one of our highest calls for service,” said Arres.

He said many of those calls often happen when the situation has progressed to an unsafe point.

“Early identification and intervention are always best for everyone involved,” said Arres.

Identifying signs and symptoms of mental health

NPD counselor Eirene Boulougouris spoke on identifying warning signs and said they can be direct and indirect. 

Direct warning signs can be out-right, stating they’re struggling or making self-harm comments.

Indirect signs can be seeking access to drugs or weapons, an increase in anger and anxiety, engaging in risky behaviors, extreme changes in mood or weight, and or withdrawing from friends, family, or activities once enjoyable to them.

Boulougouris said identifying signs early can make prevention easier. She listed Kids Matter and 360 Youth Services as local partners who help promote prevention.

“We have a lot of prevention teams within Naperville. I think we are a prevention-focused town, and I love that,” said Boulougouris.

Helping those around you

After identifying someone struggling with their mental health, Boulougouris said an assessment for risk of harm may be needed. 

“I think that we are still fearful of it as the support people in an individual’s life. You really just have to ask direct questions. It’s not ‘Are you thinking about hurting yourself?’ It’s ‘Are you having thoughts of suicide?’ ‘Are you having thoughts of ending your life?’ Asking these direct questions is going to get you direct answers, and you might not want to hear it, but that’s the best way of helping someone,” said Boulougouris.

This can also include asking about any substance use or medical concerns. 

Seeking mental health treatment

Boulougouris said treatments for individuals vary by case. 

It could be talking with family and friends, taking medication, and or seeking professional help from a general practitioner, mental health professional, or psychiatrist.

While there are different options available, Boulougouris said it’s important to get treatment as soon as possible.

Who to call for help

Arres and Boulougouris also discussed when to call the NPD during a mental health-related issue. 

“When in doubt, just call. It’s simple. When in doubt, call. It’s not a burden to our police department or our police officers when you call in good faith, and we rather respond to you when things are not at a ten out of ten crisis,” said Boulougouris.

For calls that do not require immediate attention, they suggested the NPD’s non-emergency number: 630-420-6666.

Another resource is the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline

“So instead of calling 911, you can now call 988 to get support for mental health crises. That can be anything from suicidal ideations, substance use concerns, or really getting resources for something that you have going on around you,” said Boulougouris.

Arres reminded the community that there is always help available.

“If you or someone you know knows someone that is struggling with a mental health issue and you don’t know where to start, that’s what we’re there for,” said Arres.

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