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Monday, January 18, 2016

Interview with Shawn Alyea, LPC, on Mental Health and the Community

Times of rapid change and uncertainty are often stressful, and there can be challenges to individuals as well as the communities. Programs exist to help support individuals and provide mental health counseling to communities.  Part of what makes them successful is the presence of committed, compassionate individuals who work to identify issues and to create solutions and safety nets. 
Welcome to an interview with Shawn Alyea, Licensed Professional Counselor, located in Tulsa, Oklahoma. 

1. What is your name and your background?
Shawn Alyea.  My professional background is in Counseling Psychology and Special Education. I have a master degree in both and am a Licensed Professional Counselor.

2. How did you become interested in mental health and the community?
I was a special education teacher for students grades 1-12 at various times in my career. I taught in inner city schools. I became frustrated by what I observed. Drive by shootings while students were on the playground, a man shooting up in the streets, and attempted burglary of cars. Young innocent students being sent home at night and on the weekends to broken homes that suffered in poverty and crime. Gangs grooming my students from grade 3 up. For me I needed to do more than teach reading or mathematics. While education is powerful it is a long term way out of what these children faced. I had hoped to become more involved with families in order to assist them immediately, and more directly.

3. Are you seeing any trends in adolescent mental health in the last few years?
Trends in adolescent mental health would be addressing trauma through Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy TF-CBT, Reactive Attachment Disorder, Autism and Transgender issues. Heroin use is on the rise, and many of the students I worked with reported Meth use from an early age. Marijuana has become as common as cigarettes, K2 or synthetic marijuana is of great concern inducing psychosis and damaging body organs such as the heart. Alcohol is easily obtainable and often times abused.

Interview on LifeEdge

4. What are some of the ways that adolescent mental health affects a community?
Untreated mental health issues often times express themselves through symptoms of anxiety, depression, substance abuse, self injurious behavior and promiscuous sex impacting families, peers, congregations, social organizations, employers and law enforcement; in fact all facets of the community. Untreated adolescent mental health issues serve to weaken the community in general, to damage their own generation by cutting its potential short. Mental illness often times isolates the person who is struggling from others or may be the cause of inflicting damage on others or self. If untreated it will impact proceeding generations by not being in a position to provide support and care for them as adolescents move into adult roles. And more importantly if unsuccessfully treated those struggling with mental illness will be more inclined to fail as they attempt to raise the next generation.

5. What are some community safety nets that are available for youth and their families?
Families, communities of faith, school counselors, teachers, mental health providers, the media, athletics and other organizations give adolescents a chance to belong to something bigger than themselves. They can find a sense of belonging, value and purpose through these resources. They can serve as a safety net for adolescents who are struggling if they are engaged or engaging.

6. What are some of the main issues with an aging population? 
Main issues with the aging population would be financial resources to care for self and loved ones in a comfortable manner, continued vitality cognitively, emotionally, physically and spiritually. Increased need for a broad range of gerontology services. And a need to be able to provide guidance to younger generations. I believe our seniors often times find themselves discounted, dismissed, and disrespected by a youth focused cultural. They often times work hard all of their lives only to have little choice but to spend their declining days in nursing homes that are staffed by people who are paid poorly and provide poor service (not all nursing homes are like this but in my experience the majority are). They are often times forced to liquidate their assets to be eligible for these services as a last resort. As we grow older the fallacy of a youth oriented culture begins to emerge in our consciousness but by then it is often times too late to share that realization with upcoming youth who do not have eyes to see or ears to hear what awaits them.

7. Are you seeing any emerging issues?
Transgender, trauma and Autism Spectrum issues are emerging at this time.

8. How do community health issues in Oklahoma differ from other parts of the country?
Oklahoma has a significantly high rate of Meth use and suicide in adolescents and young adults.

9. What would you wish for if you had a single wish for community health?
Increased respect for all life from the embryo to the oldest of seniors.

Thank you, Shawn, for an outstanding interview.

Note: The opinions expressed are the author's own. 

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