In Tragedy’s Wake: An Organization Educates Society About Mental Health

After a family tragedy, Tricia Baker established Attitudes In Reverse (A.I.R.) to educated society about mental health issues and preventing suicide.

Photo by John Emerson.

Tricia Baker knows the consequences of not seeking help at the first signs of mental illness. In 2009, her son Kenny ended his life on the railroad tracks at Princeton Junction. He was 19 and three weeks away from graduating high school.

After Kenny’s death, the Plainsboro woman and her family—including her husband, Kurtis, and their daughter, Katelyn—established Attitudes in Reverse (A.I.R.), an organization dedicated to educating society about mental health, preventing suicide and combating the stigma associated with seeking help for emotional or psychological problems.

Kenny had been diagnosed with depression and anxiety disorder at 15. “While one in four suffer from some mental health issue, less than one-third seek treatment,” Baker says.  “Sometimes the consequences for not seeking treatment can be deadly.”

Shortly after launching A.I.R., the Bakers connected with the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) in Mercer County.  A.I.R. became the largest group to participate in the 2009, 2010 and 2011 NAMI Mercer Walk.

“The Baker family knows first-hand the painful and devastating consequences of stigma,” says Madeline Monheit, secretary of the NAMI Mercer board of directors. “Tricia has worked tirelessly to raise awareness. She is an extremely courageous, dedicated and a resourceful volunteer.”

Tricia Baker believes a good mental health awareness program is essential to suicide prevention. “No one should ever be afraid or embarrassed to seek help,” she says. Last year, the Bakers delivered that message to more than 1,500 high school students at Piscataway High School.

Baker’s volunteerism also includes teaching workshops on animal-assisted therapy for NAMI and other organizations. A certified dog trainer and the owner of 20 Paws Services of Plainsboro, she is dedicated to helping dog owners enrich their lives with their pets.

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