Veteran lawmaker details personal struggle with mental illness
To view our videos, you need to
install Adobe Flash 9 or above. Install now.
Then come back here and refresh the page.
In the wake of recent gun violence, a call has risen for increasing mental health services.
Democratic Representative Garnet Coleman has advocated for increased mental healthcare spending and said that if anything good could come from recent tragedies, it could reverse a trend which means less and less for mental health care in Texas.
From his office on the fourth floor of the State Capitol, Rep. Coleman recounted to YNN his darkest days fighting his own battles with mental illness.
"The end of this story without major help was that I would kill myself,” Rep. Coleman said. “I'd be dead and there was no doubt in my mind."
Plenty of his colleagues on the House floor who've come and gone over the years may not know the 22-year veteran lawmaker has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
He admits he was battling a disease he didn't understand at the time, but it was after his father died in 1994 that he really knew something was wrong.
"I was anxious and depressed,” Rep. Coleman said. “Anxiety makes you want to escape, so at that time I got in my car, too much to handle, got in the car and drove off."
With just the clothes on this back, Coleman left home for a month, traveling from motel to motel.
"I did that because I wanted to get away, but I was paranoid about it, so I thought if someone was going to find me, I better move," he said.
After his wife and family tracked him down, Coleman says he hit a turning point. He eventually checked himself into a leading psychiatric hospital where doctors diagnosed and treated him.
That treatment is what Coleman says continues to help him lead a healthy life today.
"That's why treatment's important, because if people have the right medication, the right counseling and things like that, then they're likely to be asymptomatic," Rep. Coleman said.
And as Coleman keeps pushing for more money and early intervention programs in Texas, he hopes if any good can come from tragedies like Newtown, it will be a renewed focus on helping to find those suffering from mental illness.
“The state of Texas has fallen way behind and anything that is a catalyst for changing those things is important," he said.
Coleman says he'll file legislation this session dealing with the issue of mental illness, whether among society or those in prison.
He's also hopeful lawmakers can restore some of the cuts to mental health that occurred last session, but neither the Senate nor House base budget shows much movement for undoing those cuts.