Kansas Plot raises concerns over mental health

Mental health is a concern after the Kansas Plot
Mental health is a concern after the Kansas Plot

GARDEN CITY, Kan. (KSNW) — Refugees in Garden City are trying to put the events of last week behind them, but some doctors are concerned about mental health in the Somali immigrant community after learning of an alleged terror plot there.

“The first time that you heard something happened, or the news that something’s going on, you feel something,” said Mursal Naleye, a leader in Garden City’s African community. “Scared, a little bit afraid. But now, it looks everything is normal. It goes back to the way it used to be.”

But doctors say it’s important to pay attention to mental health in times like these.

“Even after a potential scare like this,” said Garden City doctor John Birky, “a threat like this, I do believe there are individuals in our community who will have some level of PTSD, some level of emotional reaction that will affect them later.”

Birky works closely with the refugee community in Garden. He says mental health issues can appear even six weeks after a traumatic event or threat.

“I think that events like this past weekend spotlight that and highlight that,” he said.

Livewell Finney County and area physicians, including Birky, plan to open a clinic next month across the street from the targeted apartment complex.

“With the refugee clinic that we’re putting together, we are looking at specifically resources for PTSD that are focused on the unique needs of refugees.”

The clinic hopes to provide a culturally-sensitive setting to help patients approach healthcare comfortably.

“Because of our location,” said Birky, “I believe that we’ll be able to be an access point and a vital resource to catch some of those things early on and to identify those needs.”

He says a major obstacle in getting patients to seek mental health resources is awareness. It’s about more than putting up a sign. It requires building trust with the refugee community.