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N.H. Leaders Rally Around Campaign to 'Change Direction' on Mental Health

Former New Hampshire Supreme Court Chief Justice John T. Broderick has spoken openly about his son’s mental illness, and his family’s difficulty getting him the help he needed.

Now, Broderick is one of many state leaders speaking up to promote open conversations around mental health. 

On Monday, he joined hundreds of politicians, business and religious leaders, and advocates to kick off The Campaign to Change Direction New Hampshire which encourages people to be mindful of warning signs that someone needs help.

"We need to find those folks — in a loving, caring and thoughtful way — and we need to retrieve their futures, not attend their funerals," Broderick said at the kickoff. 

"Knowledge is our friend," he added. "There are lives to be saved and changed. And I don't say that to you from a position of righteousness. I failed my own son because I didn't know. Don't do that. It's your job to find out."

A similar initiative launched on a national level last year, but New Hampshire is the first state with its own local “Change Direction” campaign.

The main message at Monday's launch was this: Know the warning signs if someone is struggling, and don't be afraid to offer help.

Mental illness can look different from person to person, but some of the warning signs can include a sudden change in personality or attention to self-care, uncharacteristic agitation, withdrawal or hopelessness.

Ken Norton, the head of New Hampshire's chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, said he welcomes the push for more candor around these issues.

"So many of us have been personally touched by mental illness, and until fairly recently, most people didnot talk about it," Norton said. "When we hear leaders and elected officials talking about their personal experience with mental illness or as a family member, that really opens the door for other people to be more public and come out of the shadows."

Moving forward, the campaign is planning a series of forums promoting mental health awareness at all ages, and a push for more funding for mental health treatment, prevention and recovery.

For more on this awareness campaign and the broader conversation around mental health in New Hampshire, tune into Tuesday's episode of The Exchange.

Casey is a Senior News Editor for NHPR. You can contact her with questions or feedback at cmcdermott@nhpr.org.
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