No matter how old your child is it's important to talk about mental illness because in many cases, silence can be deadly.

A New Orleans mother never thought she would run a non-profit foundation, working to raise funds to help others who have mental health problems.

But then she suffered the greatest loss that a parent can ever imagine and it changed the course of her life as she channeled her grief into action.

When people think about Brett Doussan they remember a special young man full of life who brought joy to others. Brett was the guy who loved to sing in the shower, have friends and family over for a barbeque. He was accomplished with a Masters in Business Administration, started his own landscaping business and only in his mid 20s, landed a job at Exxon Mobil. He also had fun hobbies, such as cooking to entertain others, playing music, wrestling alligators and as a minister, performing wedding vows.

"He embodied life. He embodied everyone. He never met a stranger," said Brett's mother Lisa Doussan.

But that all came to an end four years ago when his mom, Lisa, got a phone call from a family friend. She says it was the worst night of her life.

"He says, 'I hate to have to call you with this, but Brett is dead.' And all I could do is scream," she remembers.

As the sun rose over Lake Pontchartrain, Brett took his life with a gun on the lakefront. The final note was in the sketchpad of his drawings.

"He said that he lived a life that thousands would die for, and when I think about it, I think yes you did."

No friend or family member saw signs. Lisa wonders did she miss them? In school, Brett's attention deficit disorder (ADD) was controlled by a prescription medication. In his note, he said he was tired of fighting what was going on in his head. Lisa knows suicide comes from a brain disorder.

"If you have heart disease, there's no stigma. Why is there a stigma attached to this?" she asks.

It was a another note she was handed at Brett's funeral that made Lisa, a retired school teacher, step far beyond her comfort zone.

"(The note) said, 'If you do nothing, then this is a waste.' And that kept gnawing in the back of my mind after he died," Lisa recalls.

Eight months later, she started the Brett Thomas Doussan Foundation. Its logo is in tie-dye, because it was Brett's favorite. She raises funds for mental illness awareness and suicide prevention programs. Money has gone to Children's Hospital, a music therapy scholarship at Loyola, the Musician's Clinic for mental health and others.

"I do that because I've got to keep this going for him. Not a day goes by that I don't think of him, that I don't look to him for inspiration. Honestly, I wanted to die myself when he died," said Doussan.

She knew her big family, a husband, two other sons and eight grandchildren needed her. So did Brett's friends, who remember the anniversary of his death, February 19, with tie-dyed flowers.

"When I think about Brett, I try to feel grateful that I had Brett in my life for 26 years."

You can help the Brett Thomas Doussan Foundation by going to a fundraising party and golf tournament Friday, March 16 at noon in City Park.

Click here to send a donation or to register for the events.