Love NOLA: One Step Forward In Mental Illness

May 17, 2013

My, how we love our characters in New Orleans. Which is a good thing. 

Locals still talk about Ruthie the Duck Girl, even though she died in 2008. In my neighborhood of Tremé, we have a tall man with a scraggly beard who pushes a grocery cart around, having random conversations with a street corner. Or an empty can. 

We celebrate these characters. We tenderly laugh with them. But we don’t always see that, underneath the eccentricity that makes for a funny story, is often a mental illness that is anything but funny.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, which makes it a good time to talk about the story of mental illness. And we should talk, because the fact is that 1 in 4 adults will experience a mental health disorder this year. That’s nearly 58 million Americans.  

Especially here in New Orleans, the odds are great that you and I know at least one of those 1 in 4. And I’m not just talking about the eccentric neighborhood characters.

I’m talking about the people we know. You. And I. I’m talking about the coworker who’s having more than just a bad day. The neighbor who seems more and more isolated. The mother who seems less and less herself. Maybe, I’m talking about you.

It’s hard to admit that mental illness is an active part of our circles of family and friends. But it is. And when those family members, those friends, those circles are in crisis, it’s harder still to know what to do.

That’s why I want to leave you with this one piece of information:

Whenever you or someone you know is in crisis, just do this: call (504) 826-2675. Call when a neighbor seems off his meds; call if a family member seems suicidal; call if you yourself feel overwhelmed by the loss of a job. The end of a marriage. Or the sound of gunfire.

(504) 826-2675 is not the police. Rather, it’s a service of the publicly funded Metropolitan Human Services District. A service that puts you in immediate contact with a TEAM of specially trained individuals who will work with you, who will come to your house if need be, and who will stay with you until your crisis is resolved, whether that’s a matter of hours or days.

It’s free to call, and it’s available to any resident of Orleans, Plaquemines and St. Bernard Parishes, any age, any time.

(504) 826-2675. It’s there. For you. Today.

Take care New Orleans.

To read a related article written by Brett Will Taylor, visit