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Behavioral Health assists grieving community

Kali photo/Christopher Johnson

Oneida Behavioral Health, located in the Social Services building at 2640 West Point Road, is providing counseling services to people grieving over the recent spate of deaths in the community.

With such a large number of Oneida Nation members passing away in the past year, Oneida’s Behavioral Health Department is as busy as ever offering assistance to the grieving community. According to numbers obtained from the Enrollment Department, the Oneida Nation lost 151 members in 2019. With 153 new enrollment applicants in 2019, the tribe grew by two members. But so far in 2020 that disheartening trend is showing no signs of slowing down, with 21 Oneida citizens passing on in the month of January alone.

“Our entire mental health staff, counselors, and AODA staff have clients that are struggling through grief,” Behavioral Health Dual Diagnosis Therapist Susan Exworthy said. “Grief can come on suddenly or in waves from experiences from years past. Lately we’ve met a lot of folks who’ve been deeply impacted by the recent deaths because Oneida is such a small, close-knit community.”

Behavioral Health offers a variety of services relating to grief counseling. “We offer the traditional talk therapy, family therapy, group and individual sessions, and we can refer folks for residential treatment if there’s issues there,” Exworthy said. “If people wish to grieve in a support group away from here the Diocese of Green Bay offers very extensive support groups and services as well. Everybody grieves differently so we do our best to start off by offering several options for people.

“Behavioral Health also has some great resources available for dealing with grief through Cultural Wellness and other programs,” Exworthy said. “We make referrals and provide phone numbers and information for Cultural Heritage and Wellness for their resources which has also really helped some people.”

Behavioral Health Triage is punctual in responding to requests for assistance. “They are very good at getting people in sooner rather than later,” Exworthy said. “If something traumatic has just happened, waiting for a couple months to be seen is simply not ideal. We also offer an Awareness Series every third Thursday of the month here at Behavioral Health because grief is one of those topics that is well attended, so perhaps people might be curious about some of the ways they can help people that they know are grieving. In my experience I think the strongest thing we can do for others is just listen.”

For those that are grieving, trying to stay healthy is key to the recovery process. “When grieving, sleep is often impacted, appetite is impacted, and expect unexpected emotions,” Exworthy said. “Grief can come in waves or out of nowhere months after the event. Some of the providers here work specifically with children and have books available on how to talk with children because their grieving is age specific. Little ones may not understand that grandpa won’t come back or something of that nature.”

“Grief is a very tough subject,” Exworthy said. “People don’t always know the right thing to say or do. The difficulty with grieving is sometimes the people around folks who’ve lost somebody don’t know what to do, so I would advise them to just be yourself, be as friendly as you’ve always been, and be a good listener.”

Anybody experiencing grief can contact Behavioral Health Triage at (920) 490-3790 to get an appointment set up. Community members with ideas on how the department may better serve people are also asked to contact Mari Kriescher at Behavioral Health.