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.
Family members are often the first to notice signs of mental illness in a loved one, and in many cases they hold the key to unlocking treatment. One local nonprofit is helping them cope with the impact of mental illness on the whole family and showing them how to be better advocates for the long haul.
With Isaac poised to make landfall in the same areas of the Gulf Coast struck by Hurricane Katrina seven years ago, the American Red Cross has a series of tips for families and individuals in the region that may experience anxiety about the storm and anniversary.