Community Focus: May is Mental Health Awareness month

May is Mental Health Awareness Month (file).

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and Oklahoma continues to rank near the bottom in mental health. Agencies contracting with Oklahoma continue to provide services to the community, but the state’s budget issues have caused some worry about the stability of those continued services.

The Latino Agency considers itself a one stop shop for community services. It has more than two dozen programs to provide mental health help to anyone in the community. Janys Esparza with the Latino Agency leads the treatment programs, including mental health trauma recovery and therapy for victims of assault and domestic violence.

“One of the things we don't ask is legal status. That is no question here. Everybody is welcome to come. They fill out an application for service. If for some reason, we don’t have the service, we make sure we refer the person to the right service, “says Esparza.

The Latino Agency provides bilingual and culturally sensitive services for Spanish speakers, but will help anyone who comes through their doors. The take away from this month is for the community to take the time to learn about mental health needs in your area.

“These services are critical-- without these services, it is not only the Latino Agency, we have other agencies around Oklahoma City -- without these services I don't think we would have a healthy community or a healthy society, “ says Esparza.

It is likely that the legislature will be able to fund mental health and substance abuse programs through the end of the year, but there will be no increase to the already bare bones funding, which means agencies cannot help more people, as they would like.

May is also a good month to take stock of how you take care of your mental health. If you think you have a mental illness, it is important to get help, but even if you don't, life stress can get overwhelming, and it's important to take the time to care for yourself.

If you need help, and don't know who to call, you can call 2-1-1, and ask to be connected to a mental health agency.

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