Faith-based seminars to encourage healthy mental habits
Youth are excited to begin the event
The desire to reach out to the community and show those in crisis there is hope and that the church cares led Durant area pastors and leaders to seek the assistance of the Choctaw Nation program, Methamphetamine and Suicide Prevention Initiative, or MSPI.
The MSPI hosted multiple events for this cause through collaborations with the local pastors and leaders, as well as numerous Choctaw Nation departments, including Behavioral Health, Community Health Representatives, and the Event Center.
According to Karen Hearod, director of Behavioral Health Services, several unfortunate events are why this area was chosen. “We targeted this area because we’ve had some tragedies in the last couple of months,” she said. “We wanted to do something for the community.”
The Choctaw Nation hosted a three-day event Aug. 7-9 at the Choctaw Event Center in Durant that focused on suicide prevention and mental health awareness.
“The Power of Three” opened the weekend and featured guest speaker Eric Weaver and Christian artist Jonny Diaz.
Weaver, a retired New York police sergeant, incorporated his more than 23 years of professional and personal experience into his dynamic and interactive presentation. He provided a real-life, faith-based approach to mental health issues, mental illness, warning signs, suicide awareness and prevention.
Diaz, who is known for his songs, “Scars,” “More Beautiful You” and “Stand For You,” contributed to the night with encouraging and uplifting music.
“Eric Weaver spoke of offering hope to those who may have felt they were hopelessly dealing with mental illness or trying to support a friend or loved one that was affected by mental illness,” said Melanie Jones, program director of Choctaw Nation MSPI. “And everyone enjoyed the concert that followed, performed by Jonny Diaz.”
MSPI, which is funded with a grant from Indian Health Service, hosted a similar event in McAlester in January and, according to Jones, “had a phenomenal response.” More than 1,000 people attended that event and numerous individuals reached out for help from counselors and pastors, who were on hand at both events to support those in need.
Over the next two days, Weaver provided additional training on the warning signs and symptoms of mental illness called “Emotional Safety and Survival: Awareness and Prevention in Law Enforcement and Emergency Services.” Approximately 20 local police, fire, dispatch and sheriff’s department personnel were in attendance.
In the powerful seminar, Weaver discussed openly of how his life was riddled with personal struggles, as well as battles with stress, depression, self-destruction and suicidal behaviors. He also discussed how his recovery allowed him to develop and command the Rochester Police Department’s Emotionally Disturbed Persons Response Team.
The stressful occupation of the first responders often times makes them susceptible to these struggles. According to Hearod, “First responders have a lot of secondary trauma from what they see and don’t often recognize that and reach out for help.”
Anyone in need of help because of suicidal thoughts or knows of someone who is in an emotional crisis can call 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Assistance and referrals are offered 24/7.
If you would like to see other events hosted by the Choctaw Nation, visit our calendar.