Photo Gallery | First Third Thursday of 2014


PITTSFIELD -- More than 60 marched down North Street against the stigma attached to mental illness and helped raise almost $10,000 for a national organization dedicated to serving those who have it as part of the Third Thursday festival.

"Today's walk is really about getting rid of that stigma," Deborah Sadowy-Dargie, board president of the local National Alliance on Mental Illness chapter said. "You can see a broken arm and can't see mental illness. But everyone in crisis deserves support."

Another local board member who took part in the walk, Amy Alexander, previously had her life inhibited by bipolar disorder. NAMI provided the support network that made a difference in Alexander's life.

"It's given me self-esteem and a voice to help my peers," Alexander said. "My life has really changed for the better."

Lisa Brown, mother of Joshua Messier, a mental health patient who died at Bridgewater State Hospital in 2009, was supposed to speak prior to the walk but could not attend due to car troubles.

The Eagle interviewed Brown by telephone Thursday.

"When people get diagnosed with a mental illness, a lot of times their families dismiss them," Brown said. "No one asks for a mental illness and it's not a crime to have one. That's the only thing my son and countless others did."

Messier died after being restrained by the Bridgewater state prison guards subdued him during a schizophrenic attack.

Brown is speaking at NAMI events around the state to draw attention to mental illness and the death of her son. She wants Attorney General Martha Coakley to appoint a special prosecutor to look into her son's death and hold those accountable legally responsible. The altercation between the guards and Messier that resulted in his death was captured on video.

"Nothing is going to change unless the state makes this right," Brown said. "And I'm not going to stop until they do. My son's death won't be in vain."

To reach Phil Demers:
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