Need for more proactive mental health conversations stressed after Broken Arrow tragedy
Tyler Gibbons is the owner of Origin Coffee Company in the Rose District. Formally the Rattlesnake Café at South Main and West Dallas, Gibbons opened their doors for Origin’s first official day in business at 7 a.m. on Friday.
He had no idea a tragedy had occurred just one mile away the night before.
“And we were here most of the day yesterday,” Gibbons said. “We don’t remember hearing anything about what that looked like or anything like that. I haven’t heard anything on the socials.”
The Broken Arrow Fire Department was dispatched to the 400 block of South Hickory just after 4 p.m. Thursday. Firefighters quickly learned it was a crime scene and the investigation was turned over to the police.
When the smoke cleared, investigators were left with eight dead bodies: two adults and six children. None are believed to have died from the fire.
The landlord of the property said the family did not seem like a happy one, the wife did not talk much, and the husband gave her “a weird vibe.”
While the incident is being investigated as a murder-suicide, the Broken Arrow Police Department has stopped short of calling this a domestic violence situation, instead stating the two adults are both being investigated as primary suspects.
We’re told the children's ages range from 1 to 13 years old.
“It’s unnerving to realize that something so terrible could happen so close to home, when we think Broken Arrow is such a safe space,” Ryanne Nelson said.
Nelson was working on her computer at Origin Coffee Company when she learned the news.
She told us when it comes to mental illness and abuse, it seems like there is a lot of work to separate people and not as much emphasis on helping all parties involved.
“Yes, we bring awareness to it,” Nelson said. “But there isn’t, like, a goal of treating it or a goal of helping these families. There’s a goal of, oh, he’s abusive. Oh, she’s a victim, we need to get them apart. Like, sometimes they just need help. And there aren’t enough services offered to those families who need the assistance.”
Clinton Johnson, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Oklahoma, recognized Domestic Violence Awareness Month with local stats and information earlier this month, saying Oklahoma ranks 2nd in the nation for the rate at which women are killed by men.
Tulsa County also has the highest rates of abuse in Oklahoma. Thirteen out of every 1,000 citizens reported domestic abuse to law enforcement in 2020.
Scott Sherwood, another Broken Arrow resident and Origin Coffee Company patron, pointed to the stigma surrounding receiving mental health help.
“We just have this idea that if you need to talk to someone, you need some sort of therapy, you know, there’s something wrong with you,” Sherwood said. “It’s not common. You’re broken or something’s amiss. And I think that culturally wise we need to shift that kind of talk and focus to promote the healthiness of speaking about things that you’re going through.”
Sherwood said he’d also like to see more action taken to improve serious mental health and family problems before tragedies like this occur.
“As a society we don’t talk about these things preemptively; we always do it as a reactionary thing,” Sherwood said. “And I’d like to see us being more preemptive in our discussion. So that way it doesn’t take a tragedy like this to really shift our focus to mental health.”
A place of comfort
Gibbons said he believes all businesses should be a place of comfort with open-door policies for people who need help, and that’s what they’re aiming to be at Origin.
“I know for women and children specifically, they feel like they have nowhere they can go, they feel like they have nobody they can call, or trust,” Gibbons said. “Even family, sometimes. So I think for them being able to maybe even come grab a cup of coffee just to get away from whatever situation they might be in.”
He said he hopes the community will view his new establishment as a welcoming one, no matter who they are or what they are going through, and pay it forward with more kindness and compassion for others, as well.
“Whether that’s them talking to the barista and just being like ‘you know what, that guy asked me about how my day was,” Gibbons said. “That’s a pretty drastic change in someone’s mental health on how they could start their day.”
If you are struggling with suicidal or homicidal thoughts or ideation, call or text 988. The Suicide & Crisis Lifeline is a national network of local crisis centers that provides free and confidential emotional support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress 24 hours a day, 7 days a week in the United States.
If you are in a domestic violence situation, Domestic Violence Intervention Services, Inc. of Tulsa (DVIS) offers services for all survivors of intimate partner and sexual violence. Call their 24-Hour Information and Crisis Line for more information: (918)-743-5763 or (918)-7HELP.ME. You can also text them between 8 PM-1 AM by texting SAFE to 207-777.