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Oklahoma City Indian Clinic working to improve mental health among young people

Statistics show that American Indian teens are at a higher risk for suicide, a problem that the Oklahoma City Indian Clinic is working to address.
BY JACLYN COSGROVE Published: May 5, 2012

Shae and Shannon Deere are the typical father-teenage son duo.

Shae Deere likes screamo and hard rock. Shannon Deere tags along to a concert here or there to make sure his 14-year-old son doesn't get into too much trouble.

Shae jumps over a stairwell with his friends and laughs as he hurts himself. Shannon Deere is there to take care of him and explain that maybe that wasn't a good idea.

Shae and his dad talk often and openly, which is important, considering the issues Shae might face as he gets older.

As an American Indian teen, statistics show that he is at a higher risk for suicide, a problem that the Oklahoma City Indian Clinic is working to address.

Suicide rates among American Indians and Alaskan natives ages 15 to 34 is 19.7 per 100,000, which is 1.8 times higher than the national average for that age group (11.1 per 100,000), according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Shae said being a part of a tribe is like being a member of a family. And it's hard to hear about family suffering.

“They think they're killing their selves to live, but they're not,” he said.

Shae is one of the 14 young people who participate in the Reach for the SKY Program at the Oklahoma City Indian Clinic. The program is open to young people who qualify for the clinic's services.

SKY stands for Support and Knowledge for our Youth. That's what the counselors and staff are trying to do — supply young people with the resources to know that help is always available.

Bullying and suicide prevention are two of the topics SKY coordinator Suzanne Johnson plans to cover.

“Our purpose is to get the word out, let (teenagers) know there's resources and where to go,” Johnson said.

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The suicide prevention hotline is (800) 273-TALK or (800) 273- 8255. Anyone in crisis can call for free and be connected to the nearest crisis center. For more information, go to


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