Rory Guidry, 33, was pretty much like most other guys. Until recently, Guidry was working steadily as a roofer and carpenter. He was known by many in his hometown of Golden Meadow as a skilled craftsman and talented artist.
His girlfriend, Jenny Collins, and he have been together 14 years.
But, in the past year, things started going wrong. Collins said Guidry started saying odd things to her, that he needed to go places. She didn't know where and neither did Guidry. He just knew something was telling him to go.
"He (went downhill) this year, so bad," Collins said."He couldn't concentrate on his job. He just kept saying something's in my head. The TV was saying things to him."
On Dec. 7, Guidry's voices got the best of him. Collins said he left the house and began walking down the road. He seemed to be lost.
Collins called police and Guidry himself called an ambulance. Police sent an ambulance to pick him up and take him to a local emergency room. He was admitted to Lady of the Sea Hospital in Galliano that Friday night.
While there, doctors asked Guidry if he thought he was a danger to himself or others. He told them no, but complained about hearing voices in his head. Guidry had been under the care of a psychologist and was on medications, but had experienced bad side effects and stopped taking some of them.
According to Collins, while Guidry was being evaluated, an ambulance arrived with another emergency. He was left alone in the hospital evaluation room for an unknown period of time. The ambulance was also left unattended outside.
At some point, Guidry walked calmly out the hospital, got into the ambulance and drove off. Collins said Guidry and the ambulance were missing for more than 30 minutes before anyone noticed they were gone.
"No one ever saw him leave," Collins said. "The ambulance left the doors open and it was running. For 30 minutes, no one noticed the ambulance was gone."
Guidry drove for more than 45 minutes through St. Charles and Lafourche parishes. In a press release, Lafourche Parish Sheriff Craig Webre said St. Charles Parish Sheriff's deputies "spotted the ambulance and took Guidry into custody. He was charged with theft of a motor vehicle, and his bond was set at $50,000." When questioned, Guidry told deputies he had planned to travel to the airport in Kenner and sneak onto a plane to Japan.
"In his mind, he was trying to get to the airport and Japan, I think because he is a big video gamer," Collins said. "His favorite game maker is Hideo Kajima, from Japan."
This week, Guidry was brought to court where a judge said he could be released, but will be sent to a mental health facility where he can get the help he needs. The family had the option of taking him home, but said they were too worried about what could happen to him without treatment.
Karen DuBois, program and education director for the National Alliance on Mental Illness, NAMI Acadiana, said the family is correct in that regard.
"They are not equipped to understand or cope with this illness and it is not going to get better by itself," DuBois said. "In my opinion, he needs to go to a facility. They are doing the right thing absolutely. He needs treatment by qualified professionals. When someone does something like this, clearly he is not in reality. Their reality is not your reality."
Guidry is not alone in his struggles with mental illness.
According to a recent USA Today article addressing the mental health crisis in America, "1-in-5 adults (44.7 million people) have a diagnosed mental health condition...and, there simply aren’t enough trained professionals to address the mental health crisis.There are only approximately 500,000 mental health professionals in the U.S."
DuBois added that while some people may be taking medications, it takes a while for them to work and patients to adjust to them."
"Many times doctors don't know if what they are giving patients is helping or not," she said. "There is not a quick fix. We've separated mental illness from medical and it's not. It's a medical illness like any other. And, like all other illnesses, they need medical treatment. Their behavior is a symptom, not the illness."
Collins said she and Guidry's mother both wanted to tell his story because they felt reaction to the news about his arrest has been hurtful, especially on social media. While some mocked the incident on Facebook and found it humorous, Collins did not. She said Guidry didn't drink or do drugs. She wanted the public to know this was a man who, in her words, simply was not in his right mind.
"I don't take it lightly," Collins said "A lot of people don't know. It's so odd to me because I know what he was before. It's not like he has been lost his whole life. Now I want to spread the word about mental illness."