Terri White, Oklahoma’s commissioner of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, is an impressive young lady. Ralph Waldo Emerson once said “Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm,” and if that’s what it takes to wrestle mental health and substance abuse issues to the ground, Ms. White has it in abundance.

White visited Ada’s mental health and substance abuse facilities recently and the Ada Evening News got the chance to hear her passion for dealing with these problems. White makes a connection between physical and mental health, pointing out that unhealthy lifestyles often lead to unhealthy minds. The flipside to that equation is, if we take care of our bodies we have a much greater chance of having healthy minds.

“Exercise and diet and sleeping right do well for your heart and they do well for your brain as well,” she said.

A study last week revealed what Oklahomans know all too well, when it comes to health issues, Sooners come in near the bottom of the list and it’s getting worse. Oklahoma now leads the nation in the percentage increase in obesity rates over the last decade and a half. Not only are we getting fatter, we’re leading the nation how fast we’re gaining weight.

White says “Just like we want to be number one in football, it’s pretty important that we want to be number one in health and we’re not close to that.”

White said even though Oklahoma has one of the highest rates of mental illness and substance abuse we are 46th in terms of funding per person. With state budget restraints, that’s not likely to change anytime soon.

The other option is accepting the fact that as individuals we have control over much of the problem ourselves. Lifestyle changes can and do improve our chances for sound mental health.

Loné Beasley


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