While it may be difficult to find help sometimes when it comes to mental health, a group of people in New Iberia are making it their mission to help provide all of the resources they need — while at the same time trying to change the stigma.

Phylis Babineaux is a member and facilitator at the New Iberia Mental Health Initiative, an organization in the Teche Area dedicated to identifying and addressing the mental health needs of their community and has spent her life seeing what it can do to others.

Born and raised in New Iberia, Babineaux has had her experiences with mental health in her life.

“I have lived it,” Babineaux said. “And because of that, I realized the impact on family members, teenagers and as well, older family members.”

From serious forms of depression and other diagnoses with her family, Babineaux understood from both a personal and professional point of view.

“I know how hard it is to go to sleep at night when you are dealing with a family member who is not on their meds and spiraling downward.,” Babineaux said. “

Through those personal trials and tribulations, Babineaux made it a point to try to help others who are also dealing with mental health problems.

“I can see the struggle,” Babineaux said. “I know what it’s like to experience it and see how it impacts someone’s lives.

In the last few months especially, Babineaux has seen how vital it is to have the proper resources when it comes to someone’s mental health.

Not only are people dealing with their regular problems, they are also dealing with the threat of a global pandemic.

To help others now and in the future, the IMHI is opening back up their support group on the fourth Tuesday of every month, with the first being Oct. 27.

“I think it will allow people to not feel so isolated and alone,” Babineaux said.

The support group will be facilitator-led to assist family members and caregivers of those living with mental illness. A sharing of experiences to gain insight and coping skills in a confidential setting.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, research shows that mental illnesses are common in the U.S., affecting tens of millions of people each year. Estimates suggest that only half of the people with mental illnesses receive treatment.

“There is a stigma, you know people don’t like to talk about having a mental illness,” Babineaux said.

Though New Iberia is not as progressive as other areas, older attitudes make it harder to come around the idea of dealing with mental health and it was rarely talked about.

“And because it was not talked about, it created a stigma and it was like something was wrong with you.”

Babineaux believes that people may not know what is the best practice to go about helping others who have an issue with their mental health.

She and other members for the IMHI are there to help provide the support they need, but they aren’t alone in the process. Working alongside clinical child psychologist Dr. Annie Spell, created a 10-part video series called "Building Resilience in our Children During a Pandemic."

In the video series, which can be found on Youtube, (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_v0sN6VJeSs&list=PLJ44bN-WKxrRXAxoitqHjHTOc_Hi6Cv9b) is a psycho-education video series providing guidance to parents and teachers on helping our children adjust to ever-changing circumstances and the “new normal,” as well as focusing on building resilience during times of stress or adversity.

Spell wanted to be a part of the IMHI’s video series because, like Babineaux, she feels that this current year can be stressful on a person.

Being that it was a hard time for everyone, she thought it was a great concept for people to watch to gain information on.

“It was great to give how-tos or bits of information and something, in my opinion, are easy to listen to,” Spell said.

The videos are no longer than three minutes, and Spell said she did a wide range of topics because of the different needs of people, especially during COVID-19.

To be part of an initiative that is helping others deal with mental health, it makes Babineaux feel grateful to be able to contribute to her community and help people have a better rest of their lives.

“I think we all just need to look at people that are different that are especially not like us and not form opinions and judgments without getting to know the person,” Babineaux said. “Something as a smile and a ‘Good to see you,’ can make a difference in a person’s day.

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