John Broderick: New Hampshire’s Beloved Mental Health Activist –


Mental illness is becoming a topic of equal emphasis with other illnesses. Leading the way was John T. Broderick, Jr.

In New Hampshire and Vermont, Broderick has spent the past seven years speaking hundreds of times to school audiences about mental illness. More specifically, in his experience in his own family: his son Christian suffers from anxiety and depression.

Broderick was a prominent citizen of New Hampshire. An attorney, he graduated from the College of the Holy Cross and the University of Virginia School of Law. He has experience in politics, having served as NH Co-Chair of the 1992 Clinton Presidential campaign.

He spent more than two decades as a civil trial attorney and then served on the NH Supreme Court, where he served as Chief Justice for seven years. Broderick later served as Dean of the University of New Hampshire School of Law. He also served as an adjunct professor at Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business. Broderick is co-chair of the New Hampshire Change Course Campaign. According to Valley News, this is an organization dedicated to changing cultural perceptions of mental health.

Broderick is currently the Senior Director of External Affairs for Dartmouth Health in Lebanon, NH. This position allowed him the ability to speak to thousands of interested students. He also wrote a book about his experiences with mental illness titled Backroads and Highways: My Mental Health Journey. He now says that his work as a mental health activist is the most important work of my life.

There is still a stigma associated with mental illness, and Broderick is trying to eliminate that. He has traveled thousands of miles in his Jeep to reach young people on the topic of mental illness. He felt that talking about mental illness would take it out of the shadow of attention deficit.

Broderick is a great public speaker and that adds to his important message. One can experience his message on YouTube when he gave a speech at Mascoma Valley Regional High School in Canaan, NH Broderick introduced by New Hampshire Commissioner of Education Frank Edelblut. It details his family’s experience with his son’s mental illness. Broderick had to be in intensive care for several days after his son attacked him with a guitar. This was his awakening to his son’s mental illness.

The kids I talk to, I’ve learned, to be more open. Children are listening. They shared with me that it’s okay to not be okay. The kids have really influenced me. That’s why I’m doing what I’m doing. Everyone is moving forward. People who were once embarrassed. It’s ridiculous how we treat mental health.

Broderick wrote his book and credits Dartmouth Health for printing it. One goal of the book is to target parents whose children are under high pressure. A lot of kids are not okay. It’s part of growing up. We must demythologize. What do we do with it? Today you have cancer and other recognized health problems. We are falling short when it comes to addressing mental health.

When it comes to boys, Broderick prefers privacy. But he said, I’m telling a family story. I didn’t see it coming. We made a mistake and I let him down. Today he is healthy and married. This experience opened my eyes. Mistakes can be extremely unfair. No one asked the question. So why be cruel to people?

At the national level, Broderick’s peer would be Patrick J. Kennedy, son of the late Sen. Ted Kennedy. After facing addiction and bipolar illness, Kennedy also wrote a book about his experiences called The Common Struggle: A Personal Journey Through the Past and Future of Mental Illness and Addiction. He founded the Kennedy Forum to unite the mental health community and co-founded One Mind, a global leader in open science collaboration.

Both Broderick and Kennedy are fighting the same battle to eliminate the stigma of facing mental illness. Broderick noted that more research is needed because, he said, the Centers for Disease Control statistics are alarming.

As Broderick said at the end of his talk: This has been the most rewarding work of my life. But I can’t do this on my own.

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