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.