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Prison guards should not be the first-responders when a psychotic episode happens.

February 19, 2014

Dear Editor,

The 2009 death of Joshua K. Messier, a person with a psychiatric disorder at Bridgewater State Hospital, is a tragedy that never should have occurred. The Globe’s continuing coverage of this story will hopefully sound the alarm that greater training is needed to ensure all correctional officers in the Commonwealth understand how to cope with patients who are in the throes of a mental crisis.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) believes deeply in rigorous training. A new training program developed by the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health and the NAMI is now giving all new police recruits valuable tools to safely and appropriately manage situations involving people with mental illness. We need to make sure that all criminal justice personnel are trained as well.

Training is an inexpensive and effective strategy for improving outcomes involving persons with mental illness and law enforcers. As the Globe pointed out, at least one of Joshua Messier’s guards did not know what a “schizophrenic attack” was. That fact is tragic in itself and highlights the importance of improved training for all corrections officers.

Another issue swept under the rug for several years is the disaster associated with imprisoning thousands of our people whose only “crime” is severe mental illness. It is well-known that inadequate mental health resources have swelled the jail population.  This is unacceptable. Prison guards should not be the first-responders when a psychotic episode happens.  We should be hiring trained mental health personnel to work in treatment settings.  But right now, we have far too few such settings, and therefore far too few trained personnel.  Unnecessary deaths are just one of the predictable, and shameful, results of our state’s neglect.


Laurie Martinelli

Executive Director, NAMI Mass


A death in restraints after ‘standard procedure’  

By Michael Rezendes  |  GLOBE STAFF     FEBRUARY 16, 2014

Joshua Messier was having a schizophrenic attack, then died as Bridgewater state prison guards subdued him. The medical examiner called it homicide, then changed her mind. No one has been prosecuted, or even reprimanded, for the death of a young man in state care.

Globe photo of restraint of Joshua Messier

Additional coverage:

A homicide at Bridgewater State Hospital raises profound questions about care for the mentally ill

Patrick criticizes use of restraints on mentally ill

A tragedy, and Patrick ducks again

Patrick says he will look into death at Bridgewater

Death At Bridgewater  Interview of Michael Rezendes, reporter for the Boston Globe. He wrote the article, “A Death In Restraints After ‘Standard Procedure‘.” and Lisa Brown, mother of 23-year-old Joshua Messier, who died while being subdued during a schizophrenic episode at Bridgewater State Prison.


DMH Citizens Legislative Breakfasts Series for 2014

Commonwealth of Mass Seal

DMH Citizens Legislative Breakfasts Series for 2014

DMH will host its annual series of Citizens Legislative Breakfasts in the coming months.  This is an opportunity for members of the mental health community to meet with their legislators, thank them for their support and discuss how DMH helps people with mental illnesses recover and live satisfying lives in communities of their choice.  It is also an opportunity for consumers and family members to share good news and success stories about their life experiences.

“For many, getting help starts with a conversation. People who believe they may be suffering from a mental health condition should talk about it with someone they trust and consult a health care provider.” With these words, President Obama last year launched a national conversation about mental health issues and the DMH Citizens Legislative Breakfasts are just one way we continue the dialogue and focus on how we can all break the silence about mental illness.

Sharing stories is the most powerful tool we have in the recovery toolkit. At the DMH Citizens Legislative Breakfasts, we will hear the courageous and compelling personal stories of adults, youth and families living with mental illness and thriving in the face of their challenges.

Join the conversation!

Wednesday, February 12, Southeast Area Citizens Legislative Breakfast
Southeast Communities (Great Hall/State House)

Thursday, February 13, Northeast-Suburban Area Citizens Legislative Breakfast
Metro Suburban Communities (Great Hall/State House)

Thursday, March 6, Metro Boston Area Citizens Legislative Breakfast
Metro Boston Communities  (Great Hall/State House)

Tuesday, March 11, Northeast-Suburban Area Citizens Legislative Breakfast
Northeast Communities (Great Hall/State House)

Friday, March 14, Central-West Area Citizens Legislative Breakfast
Central Mass. Communities (Worcester Recovery Center and Hospital, Large Conf. Room, K2-A2)

Friday, March 28, Central-West Area Citizens Legislative Breakfast
Western Mass. Communities (Springfield Technical Community College, Scibelli Hall)

The breakfast events start with registration and refreshments from 9:30 to 10 a.m. and the program starts promptly at 10 a.m. for approximately an hour.f

Spotlight on Sheila, a Dedicated NAMI Volunteer

NAMI Family Support Group

Why I do what I do by Sheila Girard 

Two years ago I was so scared and heartbroken by finding out that my loved ones world was turning upside down and around like a roller coaster.  Things were happening that never happened before, words were spoken that I thought I would never hear.  Feelings of emotions that I never, ever thought could happen to anyone, let alone a person I love and taught life’s best lessons to. My loved one was doing the opposite of what I was taught and I taught them.

A mental illness has formed in my loved one.  I felt alone and thought this is the first time the world has seen a mental illness but it was not, it was just my first time to see a mental illness.  Where do I go? Who can help me? I want my love one to be back as the way they were before this mental illness arrived. Make it go away and never appear again. Please!

My wishes did not come true. I had to learn to deal with these demons in my loved one’s head.  The words they spoke I had to learn to speak back in a manner that would help them and not hurt them anymore because those demons are hurting them now. I can’t reach those demons but I hope to still reach my loved one. Is my loved one still in there? Will they ever be back the way they were?  All these questions I needed to so badly to hear the answers. It was NAMI that helped with the answers. It was NAMI that let me know my loved one is still in there and they still love me even if their words don’t seem they do. It was NAMI that gave me a new family to vent to, and I realized that there are more people out there that feel the same way I do. NAMI also taught me there are more people out there that feel the same way my loved one does. NAMI showed me there are more people out there that need help to know, You Are Not Alone. With NAMI, we are here to help one another get through the tragedies of our day to day dilemmas.

The world of the mental illness in our loved one is something we can’t get rid of, but we can learn how to help them and help ourselves. Please help us get rid of the stigma that a person with a mental illness can’t be helped and/or a family member of that loved one can’t be help, because we can and they can.


Sheila Girard

A NAMI Family-to-Family Teacher and a NAMI Family Support Group Facilitator

Free Family Support group held in Middleton, 2nd Wednesdays of the month from 7:00-8:30 pm

Free Family-to-Family Class starts in Middleton, February 6th from 7:00-9:30 pm

For more information, please contact Sheila Girard at 978-304-0146 or ShePowGir45@gmail.com.