OKC Indian Clinic tackling behavioral health disparity in Native Americans

10/11/2017 12:00 PM
OKLAHOMA CITY - Oklahoma City Indian Clinic, a non-profit clinic providing services to American Indians in central Oklahoma, is raising mental health awareness during October.

Approximately 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. (43.8 million) or 18.5 percent of adults experiences mental illness in a given year. Mental Health Week is the first week of October and raises awareness about mental health conditions and the importance of good mental health for everyone.

Mental health is essential to everyone’s well being, and mental illnesses are common and treatable. Yet, some people experience symptoms of mental illnesses differently and engage in potentially dangerous or risky behaviors to avoid or cover up symptoms of a potential mental health problem. Specific populations of people, like Native Americans, experience mental health concerns at a higher rate than the general population.

“It is important to understand early symptoms of mental illness and know when certain behaviors are potential signs of something more,” said Summer Welcher-Duke said behavioral health director of OKCIC. “We need to speak up early and educate people about risky behavior and its connection to mental illness and do so in a compassionate, judgment-free way.”

According to the American Psychiatric Association, Native Americans experience serious psychological distress 1.5 times more than the general population, experience PTSD more than twice as often as the general population, and use and abuse alcohol and other drugs at younger ages as well as at higher rates than all other ethnic groups.

There is help available for people suffering with mental illness. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration offers information on mental health. People may call 1-877-726-472 to locate treatment services in your area.

OKCIC offers counseling to its patients for a wide range of mental health and substance abuse issues through its behavioral health department, which is a multi-faceted department of licensed mental health professionals including a psychiatrist, mentors and prevention activity specialist that addresses the physical as well as the mental, emotional and spiritual needs of the Indian community.

“Prevention, early identification, early intervention and integrated services work,” said Robyn Sunday-Allen, CEO of OKCIC. “When we engage in prevention and early identification, we can help reduce the burden of mental illness by identifying symptoms and warning signs early.”


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