Meg Farris / Eyewitness News
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NEW ORLEANS -- Statistics show 38,000 people take their own lives each year. Ninety percent of them had a diagnosable psychiatric disorder at the time.

And one woman using the knowledge from her own mental illness to help others knows first-hand the illness of the brain.

'I had anxiety and panic attacks most of my life, and as a result of my own struggle and own recovery, I became a guru of sorts,' said Lucinda Bassett, founder of the Midwest Center for Stress and Anxiety

For years now Bassett has had a passion for helping others.

'There is a significant amount of stigma around the words 'mental illness,' and that's part of the reason I wrote this book 'Truth Be Told' is to really take that out of the closet. There's also a stigma around the word 'suicide,'' she said.

Bassett is mostly concerned now for middle-aged men.

'In men over 50, there is an increased rate of suicide and they believe that it is directly correlated to the economy. And men over 50 are very challenged because they are struggling with this fear of having enough money to support themselves and their family as they move toward retirement in this unstable economic environment,' Bassett explained.

She says men are less likely than women to reach out to others or get treatment.

'Men turn to alcohol and they tend to sleep their problems away. They tend to sleep a lot and women might turn to prescription medication. They might also use alcohol, but there's a better way and it's called reaching out,' Bassett said.

She says embarrassment and shame are words that would never be used about an illness in other parts of the body.

'If we embraced mental illness in our mental health community and in our community as a whole, the way we embrace cancer, people would get help for mental illness,' Bassett believes. 'And I am convinced a lot more people would be alive today. They wouldn't have taken their life or created these heinous acts of crime and taken other people's lives, because people who do that are unstable.

'We're all talking about gun control, but truly, mental illness is the real issue and people that committee suicide are mentally ill, and typically they are not getting the right help or right medication or they wouldn't take that next step.'

She says real strength, not weakness, comes in seeking help or treatment from others.

To find out more about Lucinda Bassett's four self-help books and free help and resources, click here.

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