New Orleans mother starts suicide prevention foundation after son’s death

Originally published in WWLTV

Author: Meg Farris
Published: 6:28 PM CDT March 12, 2018

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.

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 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.