By Phil Klutts
April 11, 2023

Edmond mental health panel convenes

Leadership Edmond took a look into the tough conversations surrounding mental health in Edmond.
A panel of health professionals met with the most recent Leadership Edmond class for a discussion on mental health in the community. Photo provided.

“This was my favorite part of the day. We need to get this topic out in the open.”
—Leadership Edmond participant, in response to the panel held on March 22, 2023

Local mental and behavioral health leaders met with Leadership Edmond (LE) Class 37 during the classes’ 2023 Healthcare Day. Panelists shared their perspectives, tips, and resources and provided discussion points to help the LE participants engage in mental health-related conversations at work and home. The reasoning and discussions around this event started as a result of the Behavioral Health Assessment, which I wrote about in last month’s column. 

While it can be a depressing topic, the panelists did a good job of carrying the conversation with a positive tone. They understand that we can’t improve our city’s mental health without difficult conversations that will lead to change. Leadership Edmond participants echoed the sentiment, listening and asking questions. Understandably, some left the conversation feeling overwhelmed and wishing solutions were easier and quicker to accomplish. We can all take confidence in knowing that we are making improvements by having these types of conversations and increasing our knowledge of the subject. 

The panelists included five local professionals who each bring a different perspective and experience to mental and behavioral health in Edmond. They were:

  • Julia Reed, vice president of clinical operations of children and family services, NorthCare
  • Shelly Whiting, in-school advisor, Mercy Hospital
  • Curtis Rawls, director of adult behavioral health, OU Medical Center of Edmond
  • Allie Friesen, director of behavioral health, Integris
  • Dr. Bill Warden, physician, OK ER & Hospital

These expert panelists discussed what they see as professionals and how nonprofessionals can help. One piece of advice that came up regularly is to normalize conversations and support each other. This includes making connections with others and knowing who to reach out to. One way to approach these conversations is to follow three steps: 

  1. Pause, take a moment to listen, and be in the moment.
  2. Create space and time; don’t rush to the next topic or person.
  3. Don’t devalue; keep from excusing the feelings or thoughts of others, and give them the value they deserve. 

Panelists also shared recommended resources for people wanting to get help or learn more about mental health. To get help, Dr. Warden emphasized a resource that you probably already have at your disposal. “Your company’s Employee Assistance Provider (EAP) is a great place to start. EAPs are typically under-utilized and provide resources your company already pays for,” Dr. Warden said. Multiple panelists encouraged the use of 988, the suicide and crisis lifeline. 988, like 911, is a 24-hour staffed phone line that can help in many situations.

Two training resources were shared and recommended for training on how to respond to others struggling with mental or behavioral health. QPR Institute provides online courses on reducing suicidal behaviors. QPR’s Gatekeeper training is only 60 minutes and costs $29.95. The final resource is free Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) training. MHFA provides training for individuals to recognize risk factors, identify warning signs, and strategies to help others in both crisis and non-crisis situations. MHFA is offered free of charge to residents in Oklahoma. Learn more about Mental Health First Aid Oklahoma on their website.

I want to thank each panelist for their time serving on this panel and for their work. I also appreciate Leadership Edmond and the Edmond Chamber of Commerce for engaging in the topic of mental health and helping us address the issue in our community. 

Subscribe to Email Updates


Get Edmond Business news in your inbox.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

About Phil Klutts

Phil is an Edmond native and has managed to keep his wife here instead of traveling the world, which they both enjoy. They have two boys who love the outdoors, adventures, and learning new things. Phil is a problem-solver at heart and enjoys connecting people to the resources they need.

In addition to being the co-owner of Edmond Business, Phil founded the CK Group LLC after working for large and small businesses in the Energy, Construction, and Fitness industries. He focuses on helping small businesses and entrepreneurs improve their systems and processes. CK Group LLC's mission is to eliminate chaos and create clarity for small business by connecting vision, strategy, and implementation.