The You Aren’t Alone Project is a nonprofit organization dedicated to forming a network of ongoing support for mental health and wellness in Baton Rouge and beyond so that no one ever has to feel alone. The project exists to encourage understanding, erase stigmas, and to invest in building the right relationships that will continue moving this initiative forward.
Our vision is to be the platform that paves the way for mental and behavioral health in Louisiana to be treated and talked about in the same way as physical health.
Community | Compassion | Conversation | Collaboration
We can’t do any of this alone, and we absolutely shouldn’t have to.
Hi, I'm Chelsea Borruano, founder and Executive Director of the You Aren't Alone Project. For a while, "the why" for this section was backed by statistics on mental health in Louisiana and the world, which I do include below. But, when I really started to think about it, I was able to identify my "why" and this is it: There are two specific things that led me to starting this nonprofit--experience and empathy. The experience is that of my own journey dealing with what was diagnosed by my psychiatrist as Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) and Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) at age 28. That diagnosis, and the subsequent treatment, opened my eyes to the magnitude of these, among other, mental health issues and just how many people were suffering along with me. Empathy is what drove me to take action—first, by starting this non-profit with the goal of increasing awareness for mental health and wellness and offering ongoing support for my community; and, secondly, by taking the steps to eventually become a mental health counselor.
I am a firm believer that we can’t and shouldn’t have to do any of this alone. I also believe that a diverse group of thinkers and doers is the best recipe for making a powerful impact, which, at the end of the day, is exactly what we are trying to do here. We, as an organization, want to change the world, or someone’s world, for the better. We are excited to not only be able to support individuals, but communities; and to challenge the economical and societal norms in order to make mental health and wellness for everyone.
The State of Mental Health in Louisiana
Louisiana has a population of approximately 4.7 million people. Close to 3.6% of adults in Louisiana (according to SAMHSA) live with serious mental health conditions such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and major depression--that’s 39,000 Individuals with schizophrenia and 79,000 living with severe bipolar disorder (in 2017).
According to a study done in 2017 by HHS.gov, 32 percent of high school students reported they felt sad or hopeless almost every day for two or more weeks in a row and that they stopped doing some usual activities. Eighteen percent of those students also reported they seriously considered attempting suicide.
Only 38.2% of adults with mental illness in Louisiana receive any form of treatment from either the public system or private providers (according to SAMHSA). The remaining 61.8% receive no mental health treatment. A 2015 Mental Health America report ranks Louisiana 47th for overall mental health care, meaning the state has a high prevalence of mental illness and scarce access to care.
And those are only cases where mental health disorders were reported and/or individuals sought treatment. According to the National Network of Depression Centers, one in five Americans will be impacted by mental illness during their lifetime, and depression is the leading cause of disability in the US. Eighty percent of those treated for depression start showing results within 4-6 weeks however, two thirds of people with depressive symptoms never seek treatment. We lose about as many people to suicide each year as we do to breast cancer yet mental health receives only 1/100th of the funding that breast cancer does.
According to HealthyBR, from 2006-2012, 15% of East Baton Rouge Parish adults reported binge or heavy drinking and alcohol was involved in 35% of motor vehicle crash deaths in the parish. In 2014, 22% of individuals in East Baton Rouge Parish reported having inadequate social support. Locally, the number of mentally ill individuals in parish prison has doubled and the community is looking for solutions to decriminalize mental illness and provide individuals with the support and help they require.
Along with several behavioral health clinics, the following are organizations in Baton Rouge that align with our mission:
NAMI Louisiana, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization made up of family members, peers, behavioral health professionals, and friends with the purpose of supporting and advocating at the local, state, and national levels the promotion of the quality of care, rights and interests of those affected by mental illness.
The LDH Office of Behavioral Health provides statewide authority and accountability for all behavioral healthcare, including mental health treatment services, for Louisiana citizens.
The Mental Health Association for Greater Baton Rouge (MHA) specifically serves individuals who have been treated for any mental or emotional disorder and/or substance abuse, with a special focus on the seriously and chronically mentally ill adult population.
The Mental Health Advocacy Service (MHAS) is an independent state agency which provides free legal services under Louisiana’s Behavioral Health Law for patients who are hospitalized due to mental illness or substance abuse. MHAS also protects patients’ rights and provides information on behavioral health law to consumers, hospitals, and the public.
Capital Area Human Services (CAHS) aims to deliver caring and responsive behavioral health services, leading to a better tomorrow.
HealthyBR strives to create a healthier Baton Rouge for all.