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Mental Health Awareness Month Resources

May is National Mental Health Awareness Month

A message from IDNR Director Colleen Callahan

Director Colleen Callahan

Sometimes it's good to just "be" – be by yourself, be lost in the beauty of a view, be quiet, be outdoors.

And because May is National Mental Health Awareness Month, it's a great reminder for us all to spend more time experiencing the peace and happiness that can be found in nature.

A 2020 survey by IDNR showed that 85% of Illinoisans say outdoor recreation is important to their quality of life. State parks, trails, waterways, and other natural areas a vital part of that equation. Illinois is home to nearly 400 free public sites that are accessible to residents who want to explore the outdoors.

Children hiking in the woods

Illinois state parks offer all of the "ings"— camping, hiking, bicycling, boating and kayaking, fishing, snowmobiling, cross-country skiing, horseback riding, swimming, golfing, stargazing, wildlife watching, and more.

Research has shown that relaxing outdoors lowers stress, improves self-confidence, brightens our mood, and sharpens our memory and cognition. Whether it's watching the sun rise from a campsite, going for a quiet hike or bike ride, or listening to the peaceful sounds of water lapping the shore of a lake, the outdoors offers endless opportunities for natural, recuperative healing, as well as a connection to something greater than ourselves.

According to the World Health Organization, the COVID-19 pandemic has prompted a 25% increase in depression and anxiety worldwide. Factoring in the stress generated by economic uncertainty, military conflicts, social unrest, and environmental catastrophes, it's no wonder people may be feeling frazzled, isolated, or depressed.

So, visit the resources below to learn more about sites throughout Illinois where visitors are welcome to relax and be nurtured by nature.

FAQ Index


I want to spend more time outdoors. Is there a state park or natural area near me?

There are several ways to find state parks, trails, forests and other natural areas near you.

I'd like to go camping. How can I reserve a campsite?

Reserving a campsite or shelter at an Illinois state park is simple. Just visit IDNR's campground reservation site, and search for a spot according to park name or type of camping spot.

Bicycling helps me relax. Are there any state parks where bicycling is permitted?

Numerous Illinois state parks are home to popular bike trails. Check out our list of state park bike trails, along with tips about getting bicycle route maps, laws and bike maintenance.

I'd like to try my hand at fishing. Any tips for getting started?

Absolutely! ifishillinois.org offers great tips and information for anglers. Check out this page for some basics about equipment and this page for tips on how to be successful. We also have a list of family-friendly fishing locations and more.

Being out on the water is relaxing for me, but I'm not much of an angler. What about canoeing and kayaking?

kayaking on a lake

Illinois state parks offer lots of opportunities for canoeing and kayaking, and we maintain a handy list of sites where these activities are popular.

What other activities are available to me at Illinois state parks?

Visit our website to learn more about activities that are popular at specific state parks, such as hiking, archery, snowmobiling, golfing, horseback riding, boating, and hunting. It's never a bad time to try out a new outdoor activity.

Is there really a link between the outdoors and better mental health?

You better believe it. Check out these articles:

Someone I know is experiencing a mental health crisis. What resources are available?

First, if you or someone you know is in distress, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. The Lifeline offers free and confidential support 24/7 for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you and your lovedones, and more.

Backpacker resting on hike with dog.

Beginning July 16, 2022, the Lifeline will be accessible to everyone in the United States by dialing a simple three-digit code: 988. Follow this link for resources for helping someone who is struggling emotionally or having a difficult time.

The Veterans Crisis Line is 800-273-8255 (press 1). Crisis support also can be accessed by texting 838255.

In addition, MentalHealth.gov is an excellent resource with lots of tips and information.

To find mental health care providers in Illinois, visit ​the website for the Illinois Department of Human Services.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness website offers many resources and a searchable guide to find NAMI affiliates in Illinois and throughout country.