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After sexual assault, Oklahoma City woman finds treatment, recovery from trauma

NorthCare is an outpatient behavioral health center that provides services across the western half of Oklahoma to children, families and adults in communities throughout Oklahoma since 1981.
Oklahoman Modified: March 1, 2014 at 3:00 pm •  Published: March 1, 2014

Melissa Lee slammed her hand in her car door a few times, hoping it would distract her from the thoughts she couldn’t control.

Weeks before, a man had date-raped her, Lee said, and it had brought up repressed childhood memories of a relative who had molested her when she was a child.

“My mind just kept spinning,” Lee said. “It was like it was spinning all this stuff inside of it, and every once in a while it would spill it out, ‘You were raped’ or ‘You were molested’ or ‘Why didn’t you protect yourself?’ or ‘You should have done this.’

“All these thoughts will race in your head and you can’t stop them long enough to focus on one issue, and when that happens, your mind overtakes your whole body and you just become numb, (and) it’s hard to function in life.”

Lee, 51, felt like she had two options: commit herself into a mental health crisis center — or end her life.

She had a moment of clarity and called her own intervention, meeting a small group of her friends and family at Legion Park in El Reno. Gathered beneath a pavilion, among swing sets and a playground, Lee sat at a picnic table with her loved ones and told them she needed help.

Almost two years later, Lee is thriving and thankful to be alive, having received treatment through the nonprofit agency NorthCare — treatment that she says saved her life.

“They care,” Lee said. “It’s not, ‘I don’t think you need this,’ or ‘You’re just lying.’ They‘re there to help you focus on what you need, and they’re there to help you with it.”

NorthCare is an outpatient behavioral health center that provides services across the western half of Oklahoma to children, families and adults in communities throughout Oklahoma since 1981.

The nonprofit organization is considered a “safety net” provider, with mental health services available for people who likely couldn’t otherwise afford them.

The demand for those services is high, as Oklahoma has one of the highest rates of mental illness in the nation, according to federal government data.

However, a majority of adults — 70 percent — who need mental health treatment don’t receive it, often because of an overworked mental health system, according to data from the state Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services Department.

Meanwhile, deaths in Oklahoma due to suicide are increasing, jumping from 567 in 2009 to 618 in 2010, according to the state’s mental health agency.

Getting help

That’s one of the reasons why it can be critical to get people into services quickly, as Lee did.

After going to a mental health crisis center, where people who are either an immediate danger to themselves or others are stabilized, Lee was referred to NorthCare.

Through one-on-one treatment and group therapy, Lee found clarity and recovery.

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by Jaclyn Cosgrove
Medical and Health Reporter
Jaclyn Cosgrove writes about health, public policy and medicine in Oklahoma, among other topics. She is an Oklahoma State University graduate. Jaclyn grew up in the southeast region of the state and enjoys writing about rural Oklahoma. She is...
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If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, you can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-TALK (8255). The lifeline provides free and confidential emotional support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

We needed to be there for her, but we didn’t have the skills or know what to do.”

Laurie Maberry,

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