Shae and Shannon Deere are the typical father-
Shae Deere likes
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.
Mental health has become even more of a focus at the clinic in the past few years.
Every program at the clinic has a behavioral health component, said Nikki Kirkendoll, the director of behavioral health at the Oklahoma City Indian Clinic.
And just about every person 11 years or older who comes to the clinic receives a behavioral health screening.
In 2007, only 17 percent of clinic patients ages 16 and older were screened for depression, alcohol abuse or domestic violence. Thanks to an increase in staffing and more focus on behavioral health, in 2010, 74 percent of people 16 and older were screened for at least one of those issues.
“We're really trying to not let people fall through the cracks as far as if they have something going on,” Kirkendoll said. “While they're here, they have someone who can assess and hear what's going on.”
The staff members take a holistic approach to health care, assessing a patient's physical and mental health needs. Preventive programs like the SKY Program are part of that approach, helping patients find ways to relieve stress and build relationships with people who are there to listen.
“Our highest priority is preventing suicide, whether it be because of bullying or substance abuse or abuse or trauma,” Kirkendoll said. “Whatever the reason, in the mental health field, that's really number one on the spectrum of care.”
HOW TO GET HELP
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 www.