LONE GROVE — It’s ok to not be ok.
This is the message Ardmore Behavioral Health Collaborative is trying to get across to the citizens of Carter County.
On Friday, the ABHC hosted an event trying to break the stigmas of mental health issues in Carter County. Gathered at the Lone Grove High School auditorium, citizens from Carter County watched as three speakers talked about their issues with mental health.
ABHC Director Ashley Godwin was the emcee of the event on Friday, hoping to bring more awareness to issues impacting Carter County.
“Our vision is to create a healthy, resilient community,” Godwin said. “Connection is the biggest piece in that, we cannot be healthy and we cannot be resilient unless we are well connected.”
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, approximately one in five (46.6 million) adults in the U.S. experience mental illness in a given year. For children, one in five youth (21.4 percent) aged 13-18 experience a severe mental disorder at some point in their life.
In 2018, Carter County ranked 64 out of 70 total counties in the state of Oklahoma in overall health according to the Oklahoma Policy institute. The Oklahoma Policy Institute also showed Carter County ranked 61st in adult obesity, 43rd in residents living under the poverty line, and 45th in children living under the poverty line.
The ABHC partnered with Mercy - Ardmore and the Mercy family center to speak on how to approach mental health conversations. One of the initiatives the ABHC partnered with was the “How’s Your Five” campaign, aimed to teach people how to be more communicative with others about their issues.
“How’s Your Five” is designed to get people to respond more in depth on Work, Love, Play, Sleep and Eating.
“You say, ‘How’s Your Five’, It’s just has easy as saying how are you this morning,” Godwin said. “It is making people think and be aware that there are lots of areas in their life and you are not always fine in all of them.”
One speaker from Friday’s event has already tried to make an impact in Ardmore, even before speaking with the guest in attendance.
Lorenzo Lewis of Little Rock, Arkansas, came to Ardmore to tell his story on Friday, only after he put his work in motion.
Lewis is a mental health professional and the founder of the Confess Project, an initiative to confront stigmas around mental health for men of color.
While in Ardmore, Lewis visited the Crown and Glory Barbershop in Ardmore and spoke with shop manager Jerome Shannon and other barbers about mental health awareness in the community.
“It was really awesome,” Lewis said. “When you have local leaders, or what I call hometown heroes, that are on the ground, goes through our process and goes through training, it allows them to have a lot of people to adapt to them. They can help so many people and help people to thrive.”
Lewis uses a network called the Confess Project Barber Coalition, which networks barbers around the country and helps train barbers to become mental health advocates.
Godwin hopes to hold more seminars like the one held on Friday to help better serve the community.
More communication between the medical professions in the city will be beneficial to the citizens of Carter county, according to Godwin.
“When we have an event like this, where we’re bringing people from public health, from our hospital systems, social service agencies, when we bring all of those minds together and they all have those different vantage points and they actually get to talk,” Godwin said, “that is a huge deal. If we can start talking about big issues in our community, that really solidifies a good foundation for our relationships moving forward.”