Former Saints player Delvin Breaux works with New Orleans clinic for mental health awareness

For former Saints cornerback Delvin Breaux, a chance encounter changed his life — for the better. A friend simply asked him about his mental state.

The friend didn’t know Breaux was going through such a difficult time, but Breaux took it as a sign to seek help.

It was one of the best decisions he ever made, Breaux said. He continued to talk to therapists and address his mental health issues, then was able to play in the NFL and Canadian Football League. The 34-year-old said he is in a much better place.

Now retired, he shares his story to help other people like him.

But before things had gone bad. When Breaux was only 9 years old, he attempted to take his own life. Growing up in a chaotic home with domestic violence had negative impacts on his mental state, Breaux said.

During college, he suffered the onset of psychosis and depression after serious neck injuries in high school.

Recently, Breaux was at the Broad Theater with the New Orleans Early Psychosis Intervention Clinic, which was screening a documentary on mental health and hosting a resource fair. The “Every Mind Matters” roundtable is a documentary series and the clinic will release new episodes every month.

Former New Orleans Saints cornerback Delvin Breaux Sr. greets Walter “Kango Slim” Williams of Partners-N-Crime during a CALM event at the Broad Theater in New Orleans, Friday, May 17, 2024. (Photo by Sophia Germer, The Times-Picayune) STAFF PHOTO BY SOPHIA GERMER

The Psychosis Early Intervention Clinic provides evaluation and treatment to patients ages 12 to 35 who have recently begun to experience psychosis. The clinic is affiliated with the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Tulane University. Receiving treatment at a general mental health clinic is not the same as receiving specialized treatment, according to the center’s website.

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“Three decades of research show that specialized treatment as early as possible after a first episode of psychosis improves an individual’s outcomes across the board,” the site says.

Black men talking about mental health

The first installment of “Every Mind Matters” featured Breaux and musician Walter (Kango Slim) Williams of the group Partners-N-Crime. The two New Orleans natives spoke about their experience overcoming mental challenges such as psychosis, anxiety and depression.

“I think it’s important for black men to talk about mental health,” Breaux said. “When we were little, we were always taught that you have to be strong all the time.”

The assessment was part of the clinic’s psychosis awareness campaign, Clear Answers to Louisiana Mental Health, which aims to educate all systems about the importance of early intervention. About 3 in 100 people suffer from psychosis, which often makes people feel disconnected from reality. Some symptoms include hearing or seeing things others cannot, paranoia, and delusional thoughts.

Serena Chaudry, public health director for the Psychosis Early Intervention Clinic, said the series will consist of monthly discussions between patients, advocates and mental health experts. The next screening will be from 5:30 to 6:30 pm on Thursday, June 27 at The Broad Theatre.

Each episode will be published on Clear Answers to Louisiana Mental Health. Youtube page after the screening.

Tables of resources and art fill the lobby of the Broad Theater. STAFF PHOTO BY SOPHIA GERMER

At the May 17 screening of the documentary at the Broad Theatre, both Breaux and Williams watched alongside the audience and then briefly answered questions. Partner organizations such as Oceans Behavioral Health and the National Alliance on Mental Illness offered resealable medication bags, informational pamphlets and more.

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After the screening, Williams was asked if he wanted to share his story.

“It was like sitting with a therapist,” he said. “It felt good to have that one-on-one and that release. A really good feeling.”

Williams’ psychosis was triggered by the death of his son in 2022, he said.

Recovery is real

While psychosis can happen to anyone, Chaudry said that, with help, it is more than possible to live a happy and fulfilling life. The “Every Mind Matters” roundtable series also features stories from the clinic’s patients.

“We want people to know that psychosis is real, but so is recovery,” Chaudry said.

Partners-N-Crime’s Walter “Kango Slim” Williams and former New Orleans Saints cornerback Delvin Breaux Sr. speak before a panel discussion screening of Every Mind Matters during a CALM event at the Broad Theater from New Orleans, on Friday, May 1. September 17, 2024. (Photo by Sophia Germer, The Times-Picayune) STAFF PHOTO BY SOPHIA GERMER

Branesha D. Muller, an author and patient at the clinic, said that when she began experiencing psychosis she didn’t know what was happening, but she knew something was wrong. She said that since her stay at the Psychosis Early Intervention Clinic, her recovery has felt smooth.

“I think some people don’t realize that we can do everything they can do. We just carried an extra bag with us,” said Muller, whose first poetry collection, “Authentic Vulnerability,” reflects his experience with psychosis.

While the clinic offers patients a variety of resources, there is a greater need for more. In the future, the organization plans to open psychosis clinics in south central Louisiana to allow more specialized providers to fill the gaps and give more people the help they need.

“If we can engage the community in general, public figures in particular, to talk about their experience,” Chaudry said, “then that could help destigmatize the issue of psychosis.”

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It’s important for society to make sure future generations don’t fall into the same traps as people before them, Breaux said.

“I’m tired of hearing, ‘They didn’t teach us that in the past,'” Breaux said. “I don’t want to hear all that! It’s time to make a change.”

Following the screening, Breaux hosted her second annual Mental Health Bootcamp at Dillard University. In partnership with the Center for Racial Justice, the camp held wellness workshops and physical activities for athletes ages 10 to 21.

If you or someone you know is experiencing a crisis or suicidal thoughts, please contact the Suicide Prevention Hotline at 988. You can also text “HELLO” to 741741. These resources are free, confidential, and available 24/7. hours, 7 days a week.

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