First, we need to do screenings. We’ve got to identify people who are at risk. How often does your physician ask you if you’re using drugs and alcohol or if you’re suffering from depression? It’s not happening. People aren’t being identified.
Second, we’ve got to make people more aware of what mental health and addictions really are. That’s where mental health first-aid training comes in. It helps people understand general information about mental health.
· Would screening occur in schools?
We have some amazing partnerships already with schools. But we have many, many schools we still haven’t reached. The need is still huge.
· Is Oklahoma doing all that it could to make sure guns don’t wind up in the hands of people with serious mental or emotional problems?
There is a national registry for persons that have been identified with mental illness. Our state could submit names to that. However, our state law currently prohibits us from doing so. There’s legislation this year to allow Oklahoma to begin submitting names to that database. It’s a joint effort between the district attorneys’ council, our agency, the administrative office of the courts and the (Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation).
· Have you had any personal experience or exposure to mental illness or addiction in your life?
I have family members who have struggled with the issue of addiction and mental health, primarily addiction. We’ve had a lot of alcoholism in my family.
If you ever meet someone who says that they have not been touched by mental illness or addiction, either personally or in their families or with a close friend, they simply don’t realize it. One in four Oklahomans struggle with mental health and addiction issues in their lifetimes.