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Former Chief Justice visits GHS to talk mental health


by Tara Giles
Sports reporter - Coos County Democrat and Berlin Reporter

May 30, 2019
GROVETON — John Broderick, former New Hampshire Supreme Court Chief Justice, travels far and wide to discuss mental health and ways to decrease the stigma around it.

As he says, "No one chooses to be mentally ill, and no one deserves it."

He shared his personal story involving the mental illness of his son and engaged students in being the generation to end the stigma and the shame that some feel in regards to mental illness.

Broderick relayed the story about his son, who is an artist, and who would spend a lot of time in his room drawing. At the time, no one thought much of it; however, now Broderick knows that was a sign of withdrawing. In college, his son began to drink heavily, a habit that followed him into graduate school. At the time, an addiction specialist told Broderick to remove his son from his home. Broderick did just that; however, now says that was the worst decision he could have made. His son did move back home; however, his issues increased leading to an assault on Broderick himself which led to a prison sentence of three years.

While behind bars, his son was properly diagnosed with severe depression, anxiety and panic attacks. Medication led to his son feeling like his old self again. This was the catalyst for Broderick to begin public discussions.

Erik Becker, Student Assistance Coordinator at GHS, said, "I think it empowers kids to speak up for themselves or those around them. It also encourages people to treat those that are suffering with more love and compassion."

Becker added, "I think the take away for adults as well as the students is that we need to stop treating people like 'crazy people,' and rather treat them as a whole person with an illness. More than just their label. We don't define someone with a broken arm by their injury. They are a person with a broken arm. We need to look at this the same way, a person with a struggle."

Broderick visited GHS as part of Dartmouth-Hitchcock's R.E.A.C.T mental awareness campaign that provides students in both Vermont and New Hampshire with tips to handle emotional issues as well as where and how to get support.

As stated on the campaign's website, R.E.A.C.T supplements the Five Signs campaign developed by Barbara Van Dahlen of Change Direction.

It reads, "The idea for the five Signs was modeled on the theory that, like knowing the five Signs of a heart attack or stroke, we should all know the five Signs of emotional distress; and when we see those signs we should take action."

Those five signs are personality changes, uncharacteristically angry, anxious or moody, withdrawal from others, neglect self care and engage in risky behavior and overcome with hopelessness.

R.E.A.C.T stands for recognize the signs of emotional suffering, express concern and offer support, act now and talk to someone you trust, care enough to follow through and follow up and text 'signs' to 741-741 for help.

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