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Maine family shines a light on mental illness

A Maine family is using their darkest hour to shine a light on mental illness. (Groff Films)

PORTLAND (WGME) -- A Maine family is using their darkest hour to shine a light on mental illness.

CBS 13 has been following the Norton family for many years, ever since Michael was diagnosed with Duchenne muscular dystrophy; his brother JT, a constant companion.

Michael is now 31 years old, an artistic, creative force, defying the medical odds stacked against him; but this story isn't about Michael’s disease, it's about his brother’s.

"When my brother was diagnosed with schizophrenia we were all shocked,” Michael said. “We didn't know anything about schizophrenia."

Michael and filmmaker Reggie Groff are making a documentary about JT's life, and his tragic death by suicide.

"Want to honor my brother, how he was as a person and to help spread awareness for mental health and our relationship as brothers," Michael said.

"When Michael had use of his hands, he was the filmmaker,” Groff said. “They never went anywhere without each other."

And that included numerous skateboard parks, where JT excelled at the sport.

For years, the Norton's had been preparing for the inevitable, inexorable course of Michael's disease.

The Nortons hope sharing their story will give other families information and support.

"Schizophrenia and mental illness is something that isn't talked about as much and needs to be talked about a lot more," Michael said.

It will take another $10,000 to finish the documentary, and more to get it ready for film festivals around the country, but the trailer already has 30,000 views.

"Blows my mind how many people are watching it and sharing it, too," Michael said.

And this story of courage, resilience and brotherly love, is helping a family to heal.

"It's important to me because I want my brother's story to be told and our story as brothers and how you can just keep going on and on if you stay strong," Michael said.

Michael says he's confident they'll raise the rest of the money to finish the documentary, which is scheduled for a screening this December at the Nickelodeon in Portland.

A GoFundMe page has been set up to help with the film.

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