Op Ed: Mental Health in Oklahoma

By Armeen Namjou

A friend of mine told me that Griffin Memorial hospital would be closing down soon. After my initial shock, and thanks to my best friend Google, it turns out Griffin will eventually be moved from where it’s at now—but, my Googling session turned out to be much longer than I anticipated. As a psychology pre-med student at OU I know enough about my field to understand, firstly, that there is a massive stigma surrounding the mentally ill and, secondly, that budgets to care for the mentally ill are generally low. As someone who has struggled with bouts of depression, this issue has stuck with me, so I decided to investigate how much Oklahoma invests in caring for the mentally ill—and, spoiler alert, what I found was discouraging.

To start, according to the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services or ODMHSAS for short, Oklahoma only spends $53.05 per capita to provide mental health services—the national average is $120.56. This is quite alarming considering that 22.4% of all Oklahomans experience some sort of mental illness—which is the 3rd highest ranking among states—and 11.9% of Oklahomans suffer from some sort of substance abuse, which is the 2nd highest ranking among the states. Given Oklahoma’s seemingly rampant mental health problem, it is discouraging to know that 6 out of 10 adults and 4 out of 10 youth do not receive treatment. Perhaps it is this lack of treatment that leads to the statistic that 4.4% of Oklahoman adults report serious thoughts of suicides—the 5th highest rate in the nation.

Though I didn’t realize how bad the mental health problem was in Oklahoma, in some ways it is not too surprising. In general, we’re a very physically unhealthy state, so is it any real surprise that we would have serious issues with mental health, too? We are also a state that firmly believes in working hard and making it to the top, which is a wonderful way to approach many aspects of life, but as a side effect this approach has led to stigmas surrounding mental health. I mean, think about your general health care physician: have you ever brought up any negative psychological symptoms you’ve had with them or have they asked you?

The way we address mental health problems in Oklahoma is through extremes. People won’t receive help until they are calling crisis centers; or, their mental illness will manifest until they become incarcerated. This blog, and this club as a whole, aim to tackle and discuss the social injustices that plague our community—mental illness is a part of that. In fact, it is a universal affliction, no matter who you are or where you come from. And, granted, many mental illnesses stem from the environment you grow up in, which relates back to social justice and economic, racial, and social inequalities, but if we can’t even provide sufficient services for people who have reached a point where the way they think or act negatively affects their everyday lives—then what are we doing?

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Conscious Consumerism: Broke College Kid Edition

by Audra Brulc

Money. I have none of it. And I’m guessing I’m not alone. But the problem is, when you have no money, it’s pretty hard to feel like you’re spending what you do have in a socially responsible way. Our current economic system pretty much forces us to prioritize cost over morals, so the idea of “conscious consumerism” has become a hot topic lately. And that’s great, but here’s the thing: a lot of alternatives just aren’t that feasible for people living on a fixed income. Yes, I would love to buy shirts and shoes made exclusively from fair-trade, organically harvested items for the totally reasonable price of $85. Unfortunately, I have about $24 left each pay period after my living and academic expenses are factored in. As a result, I’ve had to look for the little ways to dig my heels in and resist completely giving in to the cold embrace of heartless capitalism. I’ve gathered some of these tips here for our readers, and though some of them might seem pretty obvious, it doesn’t hurt to think about new ways that we can integrate these habits into our patterns of consumption.

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LET’S DO THIS, Y’ALL.

1.) Embrace Your Local Hipster Hideout Coffee Shop

Wait! Please don’t roll your eyes, snort derisively, and close the tab! Hear me out. I am a flagrant over-consumer of caffeine. I know my coffee, especially here in Norman. I know my shops, too, as I’m always on the hunt for the perfect studying-with-coffee ambiance. I used to be a pretty open hater of non-chain coffeeshops, insistent that Starbucks would always be the slightly burnt but more affordable option. (Am I allowed to say that here? Will I be hearing from their lawyers?) However, while you still might pay a little more at a smaller, local operation, both the coffee and the environment are usually far superior. This might not be news to anyone, but ending our reliance on large chains and constantly trying to shift to local businesses when possible is definitely worth it.

2.) Support the Arts (No, Really, You Can Do It)

Feminist Sticker Club

This is a pretty specific tip, but it’s cheap as heck so I’m throwing it in here. One of the wonderful women I work with told me about the Feminist Sticker Club, which is pretty much exactly what it sounds like. For a cool $2.50/month, you get a snazzy new sticker designed by an activist artist that touches on some aspect of (intersectional!) feminism. Last month, the theme was self-love, and this month’s sticker proudly promotes trans-inclusivity. Even though I’m broke AF 90% of the time, I’m a sticker fan. Like, a HUGE sticker fan. Like, I’m running out of room on my laptop to express my opinions so that people know what they’re getting into before they even approach me. This is a great, low-cost way to support badass artists, and I actually have found that these stickers are even better quality than retail sites like Redbubble.

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I have a few opinions. Like five, tops.

Going to local music shows just to support the artists and their art

As much as it pains me to admit it, I don’t have the money to see my favorite artists (looking at you, Florence Welch) at an expensive music festival (directly at you, ACL). But do I have an extra ten bucks after payday to buy a ticket to a local, artist-driven showcase? Sure, why not! Even if you’ve never heard of an artist, going to their show with a few friends can be a fun, cheap night out – and you might even discover someone who will completely rock your world. (Is that a pun? It’s not supposed to be a pun.) I was lucky enough to experience this a few weeks ago at Oxford Karma’s Endless Summer event, and now I already have plans to see one of the performers, Samantha Crain, next month. I risked $10, and in return gained some lovely memories and an artist whose lyrics shake my very soul. Not a bad tradeoff, in my opinion.

Decorate your lair/space/enclave with prints and drawings from friends/local artists instead of buying mass-produced, often culturally-appropriative things from Urban Outfitters

Okay, I guess I pretty much showed my hand with this subtitle. As we move into the realm of tentative adulthood and start decorating our overpriced apartments, the desire to nest in a cool and aesthetically appealing way is strong. There are approximately 82 million reasons not to support Urban Outfitters, but from a pragmatic standpoint, things like this horrendously overpriced lamp are just one of many. When it comes to decorating, there are actually plenty of ways to think outside the box! Local shows and festivals provide a great opportunity to meet the people or organizations producing artwork, and you can rest easy knowing that you’ve done what you can to support your local art scene.

3.) Book It

When you realize you have no money but you still have to order all 14 of your textbooks
When you realize you have no money but you still have to order all 14 of your textbooks

This also might not be new information to most people, but lately I’ve realized just how many sites are available that provide cheap used textbooks and novels. It’s not always immediately apparent, but there are a lot of sites besides Chegg (which I’m still a fan of, don’t get me wrong) that provide even better prices for used books. I think it’s amazing that the world of used books has reached the internet – as Thrift Books points out, buying used textbooks and novels keeps books out of landfills and greenhouse gases out of our atmosphere. Also, while I realize that some may regard Amazon as one of the Worst Things Ever, sometimes it is the best or fastest option. For those times when we have to resort to its almighty stocking powers, we can at least use their charitable giving option, Amazon Smile, to do a little bit of good while we’re there (and retain Amazon Prime/Student shipping options). Below are three of the sites I’ve had luck with!

4.) Decolonize Your Meals

Because coffee just isn’t enough for me, let’s talk meals as well.

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With a little creativity and a tiny bit (like, ten minutes, I swear) of planning, even us broke college kids can take steps to decolonize our diets. No, groceries aren’t cheap – but that’s where the creativity comes in. Here’s what I’m suggesting: instead of stocking up solely on pasta and Prego, for one meal a week, get the ingredients to make something vegan if you’re not vegan. Make something Mexican if your family is totally assimilated and you’re not about that shit. A package of fideo noodles and a can of crushed tomatoes are about as simple as it gets and available at most grocery stores, but they also represent a meal that my great grandmother passed along to my mother, her granddaughter-in-law. It doesn’t have to be fancy; it just has to be different. Substitution is a way to change your mindset and purchasing habits, which can ultimately lead to a shift in how we consume and approach food.

5.) Make Like Macklemore and Embrace Thrifting

Just kidding. I would never endorse Macklemore references on this blog. And really, I don’t think I even need to say it, but don’t discount (hehe) hitting up local thrift stores the next time you’re in need of some new-to-you clothing. The stigmatization of thrift store shopping can come from intensely classist assumptions, intentionally or not. If we really want to minimize our consumption and turn our support away from the often-unjust fast fashion industry, what better way to do it than putting reuse first?

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The man has a point.

I get it. You’re not always going to find exactly what you want at a thrift store. But you might find a custom-made “Bob’s Wife” sweatshirt, and, in the process, you’ll be making reuse the norm while supporting local charities and small businesses.

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Did you think I was kidding? Think again. This is serious business.

Bonus for Normanites: Guestroom Records’ $5 CD grab bags

I’ll be totally honest: the first time I went to Guestroom, it was in some sort of abstract hope that I would walk away magically cooler and more in tune with my own musical sensibilities. Do I have a record player? No. Do I have any money to buy a record player? Definitely no. (You’ve gathered that by now.) However, I was and am pee-your-pants excited about their CD grab bags, which are pretty much exactly what they sound like. For $5, you get a hefty and very random assortment of CDs to enjoy. Not every single one might be a winner (unrelated note: is anyone interested in a thirdhand copy of the Twilight: Breaking Dawn score?), but it’s a fun and cheap way to support a smaller business and expose yourself to some random new artists.

Thanks for reading, y’all. I hope some of these suggestions have empowered you to seek affordable transitions to conscious consumerism. Comment below with your own tips!

Artist Highlight: Shawntal Brown

By Madison Lowry

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                              Shawntal Brown is currently a junior studying Psychology and Women & Gender studies. With her studies, Shawntal plans to go into Social Psychology research, and study the impact of gender, race, and sexuality on our society. She is also a writer, her poetry focusing on her experiences as a black woman in America and how she finds and understands herself within that identity.                                     

                      Shawntal began to follow social justice issues in 2011 during the Trayvon Martin case. She is an advocate of the Black Lives Matter campaign which focuses on cases of police brutality caused by racial profiling and discrimination. Shawntal believes police brutality to be one of the most pressing issues of today, especially in the wake of the Sandra Bland case, which took an emotional toil on her.

                       “It could have been me. It could have been my friend. It could have been my mom.”

                     Shawntal defines social justice as awareness of what is going on in the world and says that better understanding of the issues helps us find ways to quicken the change to alleviate injustices. She knows that is not simple, though, and people can be overwhelmed by the amount of problems our society faces. Shawntal encourages advocates to not pick and choose their issues, and instead, work collectively  to combat against all oppression.

                     She believes that OU has progressed since her freshman year, but still has a long way to go. She knows there will always be work to do, and the university must continue educating students through diversity training and dialogues about race on campus. She would also like to see more open, safe places for students of color on campus.

Her poetry is featured below.  Continue reading Artist Highlight: Shawntal Brown

Discussion Recap: 09/08/15

With the new semester, we’re back!  We’ll have weekly op eds and discussion recaps.  Stay tuned!


By Mady Duarte

This week we discussed the topic of prostitution, specifically whether legalization would be safer for sex workers and more beneficial to society. To guide the discussion, we read a series of opinion editorials published in the New York Times expressing a range of views on the subject.

To begin, one of our members asked for a show of hands to see where most people’s opinions fell on the subject. Almost everyone present raised their hand in favor of legalization, although when a third option was presented to the effect of ‘I think legalization is a complex action that doesn’t fall neatly into an unequivocal yes or no,’ every member cast their vote again. This is a safe response to an extent, but it doesn’t really tell us where to go. For many people interested in social justice, the knee-jerk response to prostitution is legalization– no one should be legislating a woman’s bodily autonomy! However, it is undeniable that there are issues needing addressed in tandem that do not have clear solutions.

One of our members seemed especially concerned with regulation. How would the government keep tabs on all sex workers and their STI status? Would they also be responsible for keeping record of clients’ STI status? The government already has access to medical health records so it doesn’t seem insurmountable to extend the record keeping to this industry. Additionally, it could create the potential for a safe ‘pos’ community where both parties already have the same STI and fully consent knowing their partner’s status. A database would ensure testing stayed up-to-date and would help create a standard of STI testing.

In an ideal world, legalization holistically supports the autonomy of women, but in reality many people who go into sex work did not exactly make a fully autonomous decision to do so. It is often very difficult to differentiate those who entered sex work of their own volition from those who were trafficked. Part of the article expressed concerns that legalization would open avenues that would make sex trafficking easier to hide or disguise. Additionally, people question whether the decision to enter sex work can be considered fully autonomous if it is financially driven in the extreme– in essence, forced by circumstance. However, at root, this is an issue with capitalism, not specifically exchanging sex for money, though the same argument is not applied as vehemently to any other job. It is common to be forced to make career decisions based on money. This doesn’t definitively mean sex work is singularly manipulative, rather, it is singularly stigmatized.

Some question if legalizing sex work would do any good without changing the stigma, but perhaps legalization would have to come first as a step towards confronting the stigma. People would no longer be able to fall back on the circular argument that sex work is morally wrong because it is illegal, and prostitutes could not be met with law-sanctioned police brutality as the current standard allows. Many would still morally object, but we would reduce the amount of harm that can come to prostitutes by creating a space for them to turn to police in cases of abuse or whatever else the police are supposed to be able to help any person with.

It is also worth noting that while the discussion and this recap continually reference women’s autonomy and make use of female pronouns, we recognize the presence of other genders in sex work and do not mean to limit the scope to only one gender.

Here is the link to the article, let us know what you think!

http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2012/04/19/is-legalized-prostitution-safer/