An Overview of Mental Health in Lawton, Oklahoma
Lawton, Oklahoma is home to 93,714 residents according to the most recent United States Census Bureau. Located in the southwest region of the state, the city boasts a cost of living 21.6% lower than the national average. Many enjoy the small town atmosphere with access to local nature attractions including the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge, Lake Helen and Lake Lawtonka.
The military base of Fort Sill is an integral part of the Lawton community. Members of the military and veterans have a unique life experience that may contribute to depression or addiction issues. The base contributes positively to local psychological needs by offering Sexual Assault Support for members of the military and maintaining a Suicide Prevention Program for soldiers and civilians alike.
Contributing Socio-Economic Factors in Lawton, Oklahoma
In 2016, 44.7 million adults suffered from some form of mental illness in the United States alone. No category of person, group or location is exempt from mental health struggles. However, environmental stressors do play a role in triggering or exacerbating difficulties with anxiety, depression and overall stress levels.
Like other towns across the United States, there are external forces in Lawton that have the potential to negatively impact emotional well-being. Some people seem to be buffered from stress by a strong social support system or genetic makeup. Others, by no fault of their own, are less fortunate. Some relevant factors include:
- Climate: Residents benefit from sunny, warm days. However there is a threat of extreme heat in the summer, and natural disasters occur at a significantly higher rate than the rest of the country. For example, tornado activity is 170% greater than the national average.
- Population density: There are 1,194 people per square mile in Lawton, which is a striking 2087% higher rate compared to the average in Oklahoma and 1218% higher than the nation. Living in close quarters tends to put a strain on otherwise healthy relationships. It also escalates competition for local resources.
- Poverty: In 2016, 2% of Lawton families were at the poverty level, slightly more than the state average of 22%. This both increases stress level and decreases the means to seek help.
- Job opportunities: The unemployment rate of 1% is commensurate with the national average. There is little opportunity for private employment however, with jobs primarily in military, education and health care.
- Divorce: In 2016 approximately 4 of 1,000 marriages ended in divorce in the state of Oklahoma. Unfortunately, this is the highest divorce rate of any state in the country highlighting the significant need for marriage counseling amongst its residents.
In addition to the above, the crime rate in Lawton is especially concerning. Across the nation, an average of 2,837 per 1000,000 people are victims on an annual basis. In Lawton, that number jumps to 4,638. Most troubling is that the annual rate of violent crimes is more than double the national average, at 810 versus 386 per 100,000 respectively. When victimized, grief and stress are common reactions that often necessitate specialized, therapeutic care.
The Challenges of Finding a Therapist in Oklahoma
Mental Health America is a non-profit agency that collects data on the state of emotional health across the country. According to the recent 2017 report, Oklahoma is currently ranked 11 out of 51 in terms of the least prevalence of mental illness. However, it sadly ranks a mere 39 out of 51 in terms of access to care. This indicates that although less people in Oklahoma may require therapeutic support than the national average, those who do may have a harder time locating, securing or affording the help they need.