Joseph Feaster

Looking back, Joseph Feaster says that the first signs his son was struggling with mental illness came seemingly out of nowhere.

A smart, funny, and loving young man, Joseph III’s behavior became erratic the summer after his freshman year of college, when he suffered a manic episode.­ In the years that followed, the elder Joseph sought out behavioral healthcare services for his son, coming face to face not only with the challenges of finding the resources Joseph lll needed, but also the stigma that persists around mental illness.

“Trying to find services for people afflicted with mental illness, and for myself as a caregiver, was increasingly difficult,” he says.

Joseph III’s struggle with his illness came to a tragic end one August evening in 2010, when the 27-year-old died by suicide. Grief stricken, his father turned that grief into action­—and embarked on a journey that would eventually lead him to Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

“When I was affected directly, I wasn’t going to remain silent,” he says.

No stranger to mental health advocacy, Joseph, a successful Boston attorney and board leader at several institutions, decided to devote more of his time to educating the public and working with organizations focused on ending the stigma surrounding mental illness and improving access to specialized care—organizations like the Brigham.

Joseph was drawn to the Brigham’s commitment to improving care for patients with mental health challenges, such as the recent expansion of our emergency department to include a dedicated behavioral health unit, and pioneering research underway in our labs to better understand mental illness.

“To see an institution put mental health at the forefront was illuminating,” Joseph says. Inspired by the Brigham’s work in this area, he decided to make an estate gift to our Department of Psychiatry. Specifically, Joseph named the Brigham as a beneficiary of his life insurance policy, noting that it is an easy gift to make by just filling out a simple online beneficiary form.

In recognition of Joseph’s generosity, the Brigham welcomed him into The Brigham Legacy Society, which celebrates donors dedicated to shaping the future of medicine by including the hospital in their estate plans.

Joseph’s gift will support the Brigham’s efforts to deliver meaningful, effective care to all communities impacted by mental illness. He points to discrepancies in how physical and mental health are treated, acknowledging that there is still work that needs to be done. He is hopeful that gifts from donors like him will continue efforts to end stigma around mental illness and improve access to care.

“To bury your child at 27 years old, I don’t think any person wants to go through that,” he says. “My son knows that his legacy will live on through the work that I’m trying to do—working with organizations and being engaged with great institutions such as the Brigham in bringing this issue forward.”