National Alliance on Mental Illness
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"In Our Own Voice” Reaches Out To Oklahoma Prisons

Prisons have become the largest mental health providers in the United States. “In Our Own Voice” is an educational program that offers hope to inmates and insight to staff. Bringing “In Our Own Voice” to the prisons has been a process of developing relationships with individuals in the department of Corrections.

After seeing the presentation at a NAMI Oklahoma Board meeting, the Chief Mental Health Officer for Oklahoma prisons saw the potential value of bringing “In Our Own Voice” into correctional facilities. On May 7, 2003, Wayne McGuire and Michelle Crocheron spoke at a prison in Oklahoma City. The audience consisted of psychiatrists and psychologists from prisons across Oklahoma. One psychologist commented that he had “not considered the difficulty that consumers had in accepting their own mental illness.” Several of the mental health staff stated that they “saw recovery as a real option for the first time ever.”

After the presentation, word spread about “In Our Own Voice”. The Chief of Mental Health felt that the program would be valuable for all levels of prison staff. We have now planned presentations for the deputy wardens and chiefs of security from facilities across the state. In January, we will also present to the Wardens and other upper management in the department of Corrections. The potential impact is significant.

OklahomaIn Our Own Voice” has also presented at a correctional facility, and a private prison in Holdenville, OK. One inmate articulated the feelings of isolation an inmate experiences. He stated that “This population is often forgotten or devalued.”

Most touching is a quote that reflects how “In Our Own Voice” changes attitudes and reduces the stigma surrounding mental illness. An inmate at a correctional facility states simply: “They let us know that people be (sic) suffering from mental illness and you would never know and would probably laugh at them. But when your (sic) made aware, you can be more supportive of them and there (sic) situations”.

Submitted by: Michelle Crocheron, presenter: Wayne McGuire, Ph.D., Coordinator of “In Our Own Voice”, Oklahoma