Event recognizes Mental Illness Awareness Week

St. Tammany resident Tracy Moseley recounted as a preschooler suffering from “horrible anxiety” and as an adult having “psychotic breaks.”

The married mother of two sons described multiple episodes, including thinking the devil was coming after her, that led to hospitalizations, and finally a diagnosis: bipolar disorder.

“I am not cured but I have not had a major episode for over seven years,” Moseley said. She said she sees her doctor every four months and is “on meds that are the right combination for me.”

Now a volunteer and board member for the National Alliance on Mental Illness, Mosely shared her story Wednesday with those attending a Baton Rouge event recognizing Mental Illness Awareness Week.

Known as NAMI, the alliance is an advocacy group that strives to raise public awareness and provide help for people and families struggling with mental illnesses such as bipolar disorders, anxiety, depression, personality disorders and post-traumatic stress disorders.

“It’s one of the biggest issues our society faces,” said David Precise, executive director of NAMI Louisiana.

One of every four adults experiences a mental health problem during a given year, Precise said. And one in five people aged 13 to 18 also experience mental illness, he said.

East Baton Rouge Parish Coroner Dr. Beau Clark said his office investigates the cause of death in about 3,000 cases a year. “But in the mental health component of the Coroner’s Office there’s about 7,000 cases a year,” he said.

In mental health cases, Clark said he is called upon to order involuntary psychiatric commitments or issue orders of protective custody because an individual could be a danger to themselves or others.

“We need to be able to talk about behavioral health issues,” said state Sen. Sharon Broome, D-Baton Rouge. “We need to have conversations.”

Broome said a new law she sponsored to allow the creation of mental health courts came about because of conversations she had with many individuals. The courts will allow those facing jail time for nonviolent crimes to get connected with resources and rehabilitation programs instead of being incarcerated.

“I’m encouraging parishes to establish them,” Broome said.