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Breaking Mental Health Barriers in Oklahoma

15 May 2023

Posted in

Authored by:

Allie Friesen

When will I regain control of my life? What is wrong with me? How do I get real help? The infrastructure of the mental health system across our state makes it nearly impossible to find quick and reliable responses to these questions. Yet, these are just a few examples of questions that plague many of us and finding the answer to these questions can mean life or death for many.  

Suicide is an enormously complex act that looks and feels different for every individual or loved one that has suffered from its consequences. The word “suicide” and associated terms have been devastatingly normalized in our society and are often tossed around carelessly without any insight into the intense grip that these thoughts hold for so many.  

In 2020, 869 Oklahomans lost their lives to suicide. This is a 10% increase from the year prior and the highest number of deaths by suicide in Oklahoma since 2006. Oklahoma ranks sixth in the nation for suicide mortality and suicide is the ninth leading cause of death for Oklahomans. It is the second leading cause of death for ages 10-34. (Healthy Minds Policy, 2022)  

These statistics are alarming but sadly, suicide is only one piece of the complex puzzle that is the mental health condition of our society. Most of those suffering from mental health disorders unknowingly view their symptoms as just part of who they are, or as weakness and they do not seek treatment. This missed opportunity for treatment impacts an individual’s entire life and creates an avoidable burden on health systems and government resources.  

The challenge of accessing high-quality mental health services when and where you need them is one that INTEGRIS Health’s Behavioral Health Clinical Program is taking on with a vengeance. It is the priority and focus of this program to develop a comprehensive service line that provides evidence-based care across settings, partners with the community to improve upstream and crisis interventions and innovates to improve the coordination of services both inside the health system and across the communities we serve.  

To change the mental health trajectory of Oklahoma, we must go slow before we can go fast. We must pause, evaluate the available resources across different regions, assess the existing infrastructure for data collection and integrity, establish meaningful partnerships to better meet community needs and break down the silos of care. Collaboration, innovation, and alignment of care processes are vital to achieve meaningful steps forward.    

At INTEGRIS Health, we thank you for trusting us with your care. We aim to be the most trusted partner for ALL facets of your health -- including your mental health.

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