Former chief justice hopes his family’s fight with mental illness will help others

Former chief justice hopes his family’s fight with mental illness will help others

John Broderick, the former chief justice of the New Hampshire Supreme Court, is leading a new statewide campaign to bring mental illness out of the shadows.

“It may well be the most important thing I have ever done,” Broderick says.

He knows too well the anguish of having a loved one suffer with mental illness – and the power of love to find healing.

Broderick is co-chairman of Change Direction New Hampshire, a campaign launching Monday to raise awareness of five major signs of emotional suffering that could indicate someone needs help. New Hampshire is the first state to launch such an effort, and Broderick hopes it can be a model for the nation, even the world.

Fourteen years ago, Broderick’s 30-year-old son Christian attacked him with a guitar as he slept. Broderick spent months recovering from his injuries; his son spent three years in state prison.

His son’s mental illness had gone undiagnosed for nearly 20 years, he said.

“I was the parent and I didn’t see it. So he suffered for years,” he said. “Then we had that horrible tragedy and he went to prison. … And I don’t know how he survived that.”

His family has healed, Broderick said. And now father and son are in this fight together.

Broderick said his son told him God has given them both a second chance: “You didn’t die and I didn’t go to jail for life. … God’s put us back together now and we’ve got to take advantage of that time.'”

Christian, his father says, “is the bravest person I have ever known.”

“My son is a really good person. Decent. Smart,” he said. “I love him. And he knows that.”

Change Direction’s five signs of emotional suffering are: personality changes; uncharacteristic anger or anxiety; withdrawal or isolation; self-neglect or risky behavior; and hopelessness.

Looking back, the signs were there, Broderick said.

Join the discussion One Comment

  • Drew Kirkwen says:

    This article is extremely inspiring. I was violently attacked last October, by my son; who was in a complete and utter rage (he too had an undiagnosed mental illness for many years). It was a horrible event which eventually led to me being diagnosed with PTSD. Our son was initially arrested, however, he is now in treatment and is making some progress; and the ultimate goal is for him to return to our home. However, long story short, for many reasons I am having many problems surrounding the entire situation and the thought of him coming home right now is a very frightening thought for me; I do not feel safe, not yet, but I am working on this. I am a well educated, very successful woman; I have always been very independent, confident, and outgoing. As a result of what happened to me last year I rarely leave my home; I trust almost no one, I am not able to work, I have lost almost 40 pounds, I don’t sleep, I have flashbacks; so on and so forth….in other words I am a completely different person than the woman I was before this happened. Because of the laws surrounding child welfare we were in court today for an out of home placement review on our son and I literally had the Judge in this matter laugh at me when I told her I fear my son, that I have PTSD and that this has changed my life drastically…….LAUGH…..and roll her eyes; then she told me she was going to charge me with child endangerment and child abandonment; I guess to add insult to injury. This Judge treated me like PTSD is a joke and I was making all of my symptoms up. What happened to me was real; what is happening to me as a result is real and this ‘professional’ woman, who is also well educated and is a highly visible member of our community, mocked the fact that I am emotionally suffering because of it. She should be ashamed of herself; but sadly I know she isn’t. It is refreshing to know that not all Judges are like this woman and I commend Mr. Broderick and his family for standing behind their son and supporting him through an extremely difficult situation. I also commend him for what he is now doing as the co-chair of Change Direction New Hampshire and for raising awareness of the five major signs of emotional suffering.

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