Scott Satchfield / Eyewitness News
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NEW ORLEANS -- As investigators look deeper into Chelsea Thornton's history of mental illness, those who work in the mental health field say this case could prove to be another wake-up call.

'This is something that, as a society, we need to address in what services and what support are we giving people with a mental illness,' said Celeste Falconer, with the St. Tammany branch of the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Falconer said even in severe cases treatment can make a huge impact on a patient.

'It is really something that is like anything from high blood pressure to diabetes, and with the appropriate diagnosis, with the appropriate intervention and therapy and support, there is recovery,' Falconer said.

Police say Thornton murdered her two young children Wednesday, and as the investigation unfolded, relatives used the terms bipolar and schizophrenic when describing past diagnoses for Thornton.

They say she hadn't been taking medication recently.

While not commenting on this specific case, Dr. Leanne Truehart with the St. Tammany Parish Coroner's Office says withdrawing from treatment or services can be dangerous.

'For people that have severe mental illness, that it is very important for them to take medication on a regular basis, to follow up with their mental health provider,' said Dr. Leann Truehart, mental health director.

And as mental health professionals highlight the negative impact budget cuts to services across the state will bring, they stress, help is available.

'There are people that are interested. There are people that care and there is help available. So, if you're struggling, or you know somebody who is struggling, to reach out and to ask for help,' Truehart said.

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