Governor declares Mental Illness Awareness Week in Louisiana

Governor declares Mental Illness Awareness Week in Louisiana

LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - Tim Rafferty is somewhat of a local celebrity in Lake Charles for his strides in combating his own personal struggles with mental illness. He’s sharing his story and making a movie to share with others with similar issues. He was diagnosed with bipolar disorder as an adult, but isn’t letting that stop him from helping others.

“At first, I didn’t want to acknowledge it, I didn’t want to admit it," Rafferty says, "I wasn’t ashamed of it, but I didn’t want to deal with it and it took me years to learn that it was okay to be mentally ill. And that I could be a better person because of it. My goal is to reach somebody because somebody might be having a tough time and people are out there and I am proof of that, I had help from a lot of people, I had a great support system, great psychiatrist, great counselor”

He says others may either not have access to the kind of support he had, or may not want to come to terms with their own struggles. Rafferty says that’s what he wants to change. Recently, he met with Governor John Bel Edwards to push for a Mental Illness Awareness Week.

“This makes Mental Illness Awareness Week official in the state of Louisiana,” says Rafferty.

An estimated 650,000 adults in Louisiana have a diagnosable mental illness, according to the Louisiana Department of Health. Rafferty says the more people talk about it, the less taboo the subject becomes.

“Even though I’ve been successful at managing my mental illness, every day is a struggle," says Rafferty. “The more people talk about it the less stigmatized it is, the easier it is for people to be like, ‘hey, I need help.' "

And that is exactly what resources like the National Alliance for Mental Illness and Volunteers of America stand for, to give people suffering a helping hand.

“We want people to win the battle, we don’t want people to lose," says Rafferty. "We want people to live their life, live the fullest life they can, be better versions of themselves, I know I want to be. But the first step is opening up, you don’t want to put it on the back burner like I did. You won’t cure it, but you can learn to live better.”

Rafferty and friends are hoping to raise funds to begin shooting their movie that tackles the stigma of mental health. You can find their fundraising page at Fund.jacobsbrotherfilm.com.

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