Reducing the Stigma of Mental Health

(upbeat music) (audience claps) – I have to tell you how excited I am to be here this morning. I have heard Judge
Broderick a couple of times. Has anybody in the audience
heard Judge Broderick before? Okay, so we got a couple of
folks who have heard him. I have to tell you something. You are gonna be impressed with the story that you are about to hear. Because this is a man
of great accomplishment. The former Chief Justice
of the Supreme Court, here in New Hampshire,
and he cares so deeply for each of you in this
room that he has made it, I think at this point, his life’s work to travel around the
state and share with you a message that is vitally important. So I would like to
introduce, Judge Broderick. Come on up. (audience claps) Thank you. – Good morning. Let me ask, is anyone
here missing math class? – Yes. – You ought to like me,
at least for an hour. (crowd laughing) That was not my subject. I wanna thank your
principal, Mister Collins, for inviting me here today. It’s great to be here. I’ve had a lot of
opportunities in my lifetime. I’ve been very lucky. But the most important
thing I have ever done, in my professional life,
is what I’m doing today. And if I could do this every day, in front of a different class
or in a different auditorium, I would do it in a heartbeat. And let me say this, I love
your generation, by the way. You guys don’t get nearly enough credit. And one of the reasons
I love your generation is you are the least judgmental generation in this history of this country. A lot of issues that troubled the baby boomer generation that I’m in, your crowd looked at it and
said, “What is your problem?” I admire you for that. If we’re gonna change the
culture of mental health in New Hampshire, and
eventually across the country, it won’t be my generation that does it. It’ll be yours. And so I came here really
today to ask for your help, because without your help,
it’s not gonna be possible. When I was a kid, I grew up
in a town north of Boston. About 12 miles north of Boston. I’m sorry about that, but
that’s where I grew up. And I lived in a very
middle class neighborhood. And my best friend, when
I was ten years old, lived right across the street from me. His father was a graduate of MIT. In my neighborhood, in my
town, MIT was rockstar status. My best friend’s uncle,
his father’s brother, was an inpatient at a mental hospital, Danvers Mental Hospital
in Danvers, Massachusetts. And every kid I knew,
and every adult I heard, referred to that place as The Nuthouse. That’s what they called it. And no one seemed embarrassed by that. They shoulda been. And all these years later,
I look back at that time and I think how unfair was that to the people who were treated or confined at the Danvers Mental Hospital, and to all the people
who loved those people. But that’s what we called it. And in the summertime, my friend’s father would often pick his
brother up at The Nuthouse and bring him to their home
across the street from mine. And I remember standing there. I was ten years old, I remember
it like it was yesterday. Standing in the safety of my front yard, that’s how I viewed it. And I would see that
gentleman across the street, looking at the flowers by their garage, walking around their yard. He never looked at me, never spoke to me, never gestured to me, but
he was pretty scary to me. He was, after all, in
a mental institution. And on those warm Sundays in the summer, I never crossed the street
to play with my friend. I wouldn’t have had
enough courage to do that. And when he left, when that
guy left my neighborhood, to go back to Danvers, I
felt a sense of relief. And I knew as a kid,
that I would never know or see anyone again with
a mental health problem. That he was a one-off. And that they locked those people away to keep all of us safe. That’s what I thought. And I was wrong about that. Some decades later, in a different
state, namely this state, in a different place, namely
Manchester, New Hampshire, and on a different street,
mental illness crossed that road and took up residence in my own house. Undisguised, undetected,
unseen, but it was there. I had two sons, 11 and 13. It took up residence
in my 13 year old son. He didn’t know it, and by
the way, that’s very common. Why would you know you have
a mental health problem? That’s just how you are. You think that’s just how you’re wired. You don’t know it’s not right. His 11 year old brother
didn’t see it or know it. Why would he? My wife and I, who grew up in a universe where nobody talked about mental health. Nobody talked about it. We wouldn’t have known what to look for. We wouldn’t have known
what to do if we found it. So nobody looked. But, it was in my son. When he was in the 8th grade, he graduated from Saint Joseph’s Junior
High School in Manchester, he announced to us he didn’t
wanna go to his graduation. It was on a Saturday. And we thought that was kinda selfish. Why wouldn’t he wanna do that? And so, he went but he wasn’t
happy about it, but he went. And then he went to high school. He had friends, but not
as many as his brother. He spent a lot of time
in his room, drawing, he was quite an artist. Today, I would say he was withdrawing, but I didn’t see that then. He started smoking in high school. I didn’t know that. When you look at the yearbook
from Trinity High School, where he graduated,
you’ll find his picture where all of you guys will
have your picture one day here. But if you look through the yearbook at all the candid shots: the
basketball games, the dances, the football games, the soccer games, you won’t find his picture
because he wasn’t there. He was probably home,
drawing or withdrawing. He was pretty smart, but he didn’t do as well as he should have, I didn’t think. But because he was smart, he tested well. He got into a pretty
good college in New York. And you guys may have heard
this, I don’t know if it’s true, but sometimes when kids go
away to college, they drink. Have you heard that? It could be true. I’m not recommending it,
but it could be true. And my son, who grew up in a
house where we didn’t drink, we just didn’t like the taste of alcohol. My son started majoring
in drinking, apparently. I didn’t see him all that often, but I could hear it some
nights when he called us, I could hear it in his voice. And sometimes, when we’d
be down on the campus, kids who I didn’t know, fellow students would come
up to my wife and me and say, “we’re worried about him. He seems to drink a lot.” I would talk to him about
it and he would say, “Dad, I don’t drink
more than anybody else. I don’t know why they’re saying that.” I couldn’t prove it. I couldn’t do much about it. He graduated from college. Again, he didn’t do great, he did okay. He tested well, he got into a
good graduate school in Boston and by then, he was drinking every day. Every single day. He lived with us for some of that time. He lived alone, north
in Boston, for a while. Somehow, he got through graduate school. I don’t know how he did it. And then he got his first job
and he held it for four weeks. But it wasn’t his fault he lost the job. Took longer to get the second job. He held that for about three weeks. It wasn’t his fault. And at that point, his drinking
seemed to be the problem. It was alarming, actually. So my wife and I went and
talked to the alcohol experts, told them what was going
on, and they said to us, “With absolute certainty, your
son, Judge, is an alcoholic. That’s what’s happening here. So here are your choices. You can put him on the street, literally. Maybe he’ll hit bottom and bounce back. Or you can keep him in your house and he’ll die drinking
in your house, Judge. You can’t drink when he’s drinking. It won’t be next week or
next month or next year, but at some point, he’s
gonna die drinking.” And my wife and I didn’t
like those options. So, we convinced my son to go to rehab, which was pretty silly, looking back. He didn’t think he had a problem. He said, “dad, if I didn’t
have these feelings, I wouldn’t be drinking.” We talked to the alcohol people and told them that, and they said, “Judge, everybody who’s an alcoholic has a reason. He’s an alcoholic.” so we sent him off to rehab and he did the world tour of rehab. He went to New Hampshire
Hyannis on Cape Cod. Wesleyan, Connecticut and Florida. And he came back from Florida after weeks, he had been drinking on
the plane on the way home. So obviously, it wasn’t taking. And you guys don’t know my
wife, and she’s not here today, so I’m not trying to
curry favor with my wife. Not that I’m above doing that, I’m just not doing it now. My wife is a decent, kind,
compassionate person. We both loved our son. And I tell you that because she and I were the decision tree as to what to do. And so we put him out. It was the hardest decision we ever made. We thought it was a tough love decision. It was such a bad decision. We didn’t know when my son went out that he had underlying
mental health problems. All we saw was alcohol. And he didn’t know he had
a mental health problem. He just had feelings. And when we put him out, he
was there for three weeks. He slept in his car, some
nights he slept at the shelter. He ate at the soup kitchen. He continued to drink. And after three weeks of
dreading that phone call that every parent dreads, that
something happened to our son or that he’d run into a
family while driving drunk, we brought him home. And we knew when we did
that, what that likely meant. That he would die drinking with us, but at least he would be with us. What we didn’t realize
is when we put him out, my son’s underlying mental
health problems exploded. I hadn’t seen them for what they were. And when we brought him
home, he was so traumatized by that experience, he
was drinking as much, if not more, than when we put him out. And I believe he was afraid
we would do that to him again and he just couldn’t deal with it. So one night, he assaulted me. I went to the intensive care unit at the Elliot Hospital in Manchester. I was there for eight days, they tell me. I have no memory of that. I’ve no memory of going to the hospital. But my wife does. And my son does. I was on the Supreme Court at the time, it got a fair amount of coverage. You might imagine that would
be an interesting story. It’s kind of a man bites dog story. Judge’s son goes to jail. He was arraigned, issued
an orange jumpsuit and went to the Valley
Street Jail, in Manchester. I was in the ICU. I don’t know how my wife survived that. I don’t. She says the first time she visited him, he had the orange jumpsuit on. They talked on the phone
with plexiglass between them. And she said, “he was saying
to me,” my wife, “Is dad okay? I can’t believe I did that. I am so sorry. Is dad gonna be okay?” She didn’t know back then. She didn’t know. She couldn’t visit every day. So I said, “mom if you could come, I’m usually in my cell at 3 o’clock. I can see the cemetery
here from my window, and I just don’t want to feel like my family’s abandoned
me, so if you came there, that would comfort me
that I could see you.” And so, she did. I can’t imagine what
that was like for her. She drove to that cemetery,
sit on the corner, waved at the building, not
knowing what window he was in or even if he was at a window. Gave him a thumbs up sign. Later, she said, “it was
a good distance away, cuz he couldn’t see me
crying from that distance.” She’d leave the hospital
in the early days, it was late March, early
April, still pretty cold. She said in the early days,
there were satellite trucks, TV trucks outside, she
said, “I avoided that. I went home and there’d be 20 messages on the answering machine and
I just deleted all of them. What would I have told him? What would I have said?” When I was in the intensive care unit, my doctors went on the
Today Show, apparently. The story was in the New York
Times, the Los Angeles Times, it wasn’t exactly below the radar. People Magazine reached out to my wife. She didn’t respond to that. After eight days, they took
me up to a private room on the sixth floor at the Elliot Hospital. I then realized I was in the hospital. I had no idea why. And the fella who was pushing me upstairs, I asked him and he said,
“I think you fell.” and I didn’t remember that,
but I had no other memory. I felt pretty sore for
someone who had fallen. And so, after two days
in that private room, my wife and I went home. I couldn’t get out of bed for a week. And she told me what had
happened, as best she knew. And the two of us just cried. I’d been a lawyer and
a judge my whole life. I knew what it meant. I didn’t understand what happened, but I knew what it meant for
him, for us, for his brother. And I never thought that it
had been on the newspaper. I never even had that thought. And I’m glad I didn’t. It was the most hopeless feeling
I ever had in my lifetime. Lying in the bed, my son’s in jail. I couldn’t do anything. And my wife was trying
to deal with all of that, pretty much on her own. My son was not supposed to
have any contact with me while he was at Valley Street Jail. I couldn’t visit. But that Father’s Day,
about two months in, he made a card, he was a good artist, and he mailed it to us. And my wife handed it
to me, we were driving. I couldn’t drive the car then. And I read it, and when I
read it, my eyes got watery cuz that was my son who wrote that card. That was the guy I knew
who wrote that card. Apologizing. After six months at Valley Street, my son was sentenced to the state prison. I hope none of you have
that day in your lifetime. And because I was on the Supreme Court, and because it was still newsworthy, there were members of the press there. I hadn’t seen my son in six months, and suddenly he appeared in the courtroom. My wife and I were behind the
rail in the public section. He came over, I stood up,
and he gave me a big hug and he kinda held me back to look at me. He said, “Dad, are you okay? I am so sorry. I am so sorry.” I didn’t understand it. He said, “are you gonna be alright?” I said, “I think so, but
now, we’re focused on you.” I said, “we must’ve gotten
into this as a family. I don’t know how, but we’re here.” So, I said, “If you don’t quit,
my mother and I won’t quit.” He said, “I won’t quit, dad.” He then was sentenced to
seven and a half to 15 years. My master’s educated,
smart, funny, decent son. I don’t know how my wife survived
that hearing, to be blunt. He was sentenced to seven
and a half to 15 years. They suspended four years
of the seven and a half. And if he behaved himself, he might not have to serve that time. But he had to serve the rest. And so off he went. Twenty percent of the cases
I heard on the Supreme Court came from the place where he
was gonna take up residence. We heard appeals from
inmates, his new neighbors. One day, I said to him, “do
you want me to step down? I’ll step down from the court. I love it, it’s a great honor, but your health is more
important than that job.” He said, “Dad, don’t do that. If it gets bad here, but don’t do that.” Now, if my father had asked
me that, I woulda said, “Why don’t you resign tonight? We’ll issue a press
release at your resigning.” He didn’t. He didn’t. After 30 days, my wife and I were allowed to go up and visit, and we met him in the secure psychiatric
unit of the state prison. He wasn’t housed there, but that’s where the meeting took place. Met with my son, the head
psychiatrist, two social workers. The secure psychiatric
unit is a sad place. It has a hopelessness to it. Kinda antiseptic, a lot of steel on steel. A lot of clicking heels on linoleum. And that’s where the meeting took place. A psychiatrist started the meeting off and said to my wife and I,
“I really like your son. He’s smart, he’s funny. He’s got all the skills you
need to be successful in life.” I said, “We love our son. But we’re in the state
prison this morning, so something’s gone wrong.” He said, “Let me tell you his problems. He has serious depression. anxiety and panic attacks
are almost off the charts. If you had his problems, Judge, and I said, ‘hey why don’t
you have a six-pack every day. It’ll make you feel better for a while.’ You might reject it, but
eventually you’d do it. It wasn’t a good call, don’t
get me wrong,” he said, “but it made sense to him. He was self-medicating, Judge.” No one had ever said that. I look back and I think,
how ignorant was I? My ignorance caused a lot
of problems in my family. So he said, “we’re gonna
work with your son. We’re gonna see if we can help him.” When my wife and I walked
up the long driveway, behind the secure psychiatric
unit, that day to our car, I thought my son was right. He wasn’t an alcoholic. His problem is mental illness. Not alcohol. And all those images from
my ten year old self, of that guy across the street, flooded us. I thought, maybe that’ll be my son. About 90 days into his prison term, we went up one night
during visiting hours. And he came over, he gave
us a big hug, and he said, “Dad, I feel so different.” I said, “what do you mean?” He said, “I haven’t felt
like this since I was a kid. I can eat, I can sleep, I can focus. I’m not stressed all the time. I’m teaching at the prison now.” I said, “what are they doing for you?” He said, “well, I don’t know. They give me three or four pills a day and I take a couple of pills
or a pill at nighttime. I haven’t slept dad, like
this, since I was a child.” He was like that, by the way, for the balance of his time in the prison. He had mental health problems. My son was married in prison, and for those of you, in the future, who might be making wedding
plans, I wouldn’t go there. Just my thought. It wouldn’t be my first choice. The receptions are very inexpensive, Coca-Cola, potato chips… The wedding photographer was an inmate. He was about this tall and
he had a Polaroid camera. My son said, “Dad, don’t ask
him what he’s doing here.” I said I wasn’t gonna ask him. He said, “No one asks you why you’re here. They just know you’re here.” I said to the guy, “what do
you charge for a picture?” He said, “I charge a dollar a picture.” I said, “You are my kinda
wedding photographer.” My son’s wife had done her
Master’s degree with him. She later won an Emmy in New England for her work on film and film editing. She was twice nominated. I’ve held the Emmy statue. If she would let me keep
it, I would do that. But she won’t. They have a nine year old
daughter, my granddaughter. As you all know, grandparents
are very objective, very fair about their grandchildren. So even if I weren’t
totally fair and objective, my little nine year old
granddaughter is stunning. She could be a child model. She really could. And every time I hug that little girl, I say you are a miracle child. From where we were and where
we are, she’s impossible to me. When my son was paroled,
and I never thought they’d parole him, cuz I
was then Chief Justice. And I said they’re not gonna parole the son of a Chief Justice. It looks like favoritism. But, God love the parole board. They did what I think they should’ve done. They paroled him. And that day, they sent a
camera crew out from Channel 9 to ask my wife and I
to comment and I said, “we’re really happy my son’s
coming back to real life. But I wanna say one more thing. My son’s not a bad person
who’s become a good person. He’s always been a good
person, but he’s now well. And those are very different things.” That first Thanksgiving, we were driving to get something and he
was in the passenger seat. He was tapping his chest. He said, “Dad, have you
always felt like this?” I said, “What do you mean like this?” He said, “Good, I mean, dad, like I feel.” And I said, “Probably, I have.” I knew I had failed him. I went back to the court. And by the way, he told me, my son, that they gave him an
IQ test at the prison and I said, “how did you do?” And he said, “I was three
points below genius.” I knew he was smart. And I said, “Really? You couldn’t be a genius?” He said, “dad, my ankles were shackled. They were watching me
through a two way mirror. That’s gotta be worth three points!” I said, “Okay, you’re a genius.” I think he is a lot
smarter than his father. I know that. I went back to the Supreme
Court, I talked to my colleagues about what we were doing, but no one else. That’s the world I grew up in. Didn’t talk about it. But people talked to me. People came up to me in gas stations, in grocery stores, didn’t matter. And they’d say, “Judge, how ya doin? You’re looking good, Judge.” I knew what they meant. And I said, “Thank you. My son’s doing better.” They said they didn’t wanna ask. I said, “he had mental health problems.” Every one of those people told me a story. About themselves, their
father, their mother, their cousin, their daughter. Mental health stories were everywhere. And they would tell me because I was safe. I wouldn’t be judging them. Who would I be to judge somebody
with a mental health issue? I said to my wife, “do you realize how widespread mental health issues are? I didn’t know that.” Two years ago, I got a call from the head of behavioral health at Concord
Hospital, Doctor Bill Gunn. He said, “John, I have a friend. Her name is Barbara Van Dahlen. She’s a psychologist in Maryland. She wants to start a mental
health awareness campaign all across America and she wants to start in New Hampshire first.” “And she wanted me,”
Bill Gunn, “to chair it.” He said, “I told her I
didn’t know enough people but I knew a guy who may know more people, and whose family rather
publicly marched through the valley of mental illness. Maybe he’ll like to help.” And so I called her. But before I called her, I
did what all of you would do. I googled her. Oh, come on, you all do that. And I found out that she was
on Time Magazine’s 100 list. Hundred Most Influential
People on the Planet Earth. That’s a pretty impressive list. So I was intimidated when I called her, but she was a lovely person. I said, “Barbara, what
are you trying to do?” She said, “John, I’m
trying to make the five most common signs of mental
illness as well known, or as widely known, as the signs of a heart attack or a stroke.” I thought that was genius, frankly. I said, “Barbara, why do I know the signs of a heart attack or a stroke?” She said, “because it usually happens to someone you love, John, so,
we’ve all learned the signs. Now we call 9-1-1 and thousands and thousands of people
are saved every year.” I said, “why don’t I know
the signs of mental illness?” She said, “people are still hiding it. They’re ashamed of it. they’re fearful of how
others will react to them.” That would’ve been me, by the way. We launched this campaign
a year ago in May, in an empty statehouse chamber. It had 400 seats. Maybe the size of this auditorium. And I said, “I don’t think
people are gonna show up. It’s a Monday morning. It’s a nonpartisan, non-political public awareness campaign.” They said, “Well, you might be surprised.” We didn’t get 400 people. We got 425 people on a Monday morning. The Catholic Bishop, the Episcopal church, the Jewish community, every member of our congressional
delegation, the Governor, the Attorney General, business leaders, civic leaders, family members. It was the most impressive
room I’d been in, in four decades. The most impressive room. And Barbara Van Dahlen, the
genius behind this campaign, asked that group this question. “If there’s anyone here
this morning,” she said, “who’s been untouched by mental health, themselves, their family,
their extended family, their friends, their
classmates, their co-workers… If you’ve been untouched,”
she said, “raise your hand.” I didn’t know what to expect. But what I didn’t expect is what happened. Not one hand went up. Not one hand went up. Meaning everyone had been touched. She gave these statistics,
which may explain one of the reasons I’m here this morning. Half of all mental illness, in the United States, arises by age 14. Two-thirds by age 23. Last year in the United States, more people died by suicide than in every car
accident in this country. We don’t talk about that much. Every single day in our
country, every 90 minutes, Every day, every week, every month, a veteran, he or she,
takes their own life. We never talk about that. I said, “Barbara, what can I do to help?” She said, “Can you form
a steering committee to launch this?” So, I said, “Well, I’ll try.” It was the easiest thing I ever did. The easiest thing I have ever done. I called hospital CEOs. I called business leaders, civic leaders. Spoke to the Attorney General, who said, “I’d love to be on the committee.” I spoke to the Commissioner of Safety, the Commissioner of
Health and Human Services. Everybody I asked said yes. And everybody I asked had a
mental health story for me. Everyone. And they would tell me,
they might not tell you because they knew I was safe. I wouldn’t be judging anyone. We had to raise $150,000 for the campaign. I picked that number out of thin air. I had no idea. We raised it in no time. First place I went was
Dartmouth-Hitchcock. I didn’t work there then. Jim Weinstein was the
CEO, Doctor Weinstein. Took me five minutes to get money. Elliot Hospital, Catholic Medical Center, the New Hampshire Hospital
Association gave us $40,000. We got to within $15,000 of that goal and I called former Governor Craig Benson, who I didn’t know of and I liked. He changed my life. He made me Chief Justice. And I’d hoped to get a meeting with him. And so he called me back. I told him what we were doing. He said, “John, that
sounds really important.” I said, “I’d love to come see you.” He said, “For what?” I said, “I’m gonna ask
you for a donation.” He said, “How far short are you?” I said, “I need to raise another $15,000.” He said, “I’ll send you a check for it.” I wish I’d said $50,000,
but I wasn’t smart. Gotta love Governor Benson. Since then, we’ve raised another $184,000. We’ve raised a third of a million dollars. Dartmouth, alone, has
put in a third of that. After we launched this campaign, we waited to see if anyone
would ask us to do anything with them or for them or talk to them. We didn’t have a manual on how to do it. This morning is probably the 158th time I’ve spoken in the last 17 months. I’ve traveled about 20,000 miles. I’ve spoken in person
like this morning now, to almost 22,000 people. I’ve been to 50 high schools. I almost can’t keep up
with the invitations. It’s not about me. It’s about these issues that
I feel so strongly about. My family’s tragedy is
that it happened at all. I was pretty ignorant,
then, about mental health. I’m not ignorant now. No one can be ignorant now. No one should be ignorant now. I spoke at a gym at Pembroke Academy. The bleachers were filled,
the floor was empty. 840 kids, the principal told me. I spoke to them from a podium
with a juiced up microphone. I wasn’t sure they could hear me. I spoke to them for
about 35 to 40 minutes, and when I stopped speaking,
I thought this’ll be awkward. They won’t even know I’ve stopped. Cuz maybe they hadn’t
been able to hear me. So I stopped and held my breath. Two seconds passed, I would say. Seemed like two minutes to me. 840 kids stood up and
applauded for almost a minute. I said to the principal,
“These people don’t know me. It’s not me they’re applauding. These kids wanna talk about it.” This generation’s smarter than mine was. And there were kids in
that auditorium that day, in that gymnasium, who were suffering. We need to get real. We need to take away the
shame and the stigma. My son tells me all the time, “Dad, anyone with a mental health problem, anxiety, panic, bipolar,
depression, it doesn’t matter. They have two things in common. Number one is they didn’t ask for it.” It’s true. “And number two, they don’t deserve it.” Which is also true. And what do the rest of us do? We stigmatize it. We make fun of them. We make them feel badly. Why do we do that? Every physical illness in
America, from the neck down, is treated with respect,
dignity and empathy. As it should be. The neck up? Well, maybe not. Maybe it’s just you. Maybe you’re not strong enough. If you were a better person. If someone had diabetes, would
you ever say snap out of it? People say they’re depressed. They say, “what do you have
to be depressed about?” If I knew, I wouldn’t be depressed. It’s way past time that we changed it. You can do that, if you want. My generation, the baby boomer
generation, failed miserably. Our solution was don’t
talk about it, hide it. Keep it a secret. Sometimes when I go to high
school gyms or other places, people come up to me with
wet eyes and cracking voices. They say thanks for coming. Thanks for talking about it. Earlier along, I’d say,
“How are your classmates? Are they supportive?” Most of the kids would
say, “I don’t tell anybody. I might not have any friends.” I cannot imagine a crueler act than to make fun of
someone whose real crime is they have a brain chemical imbalance. That’s what it is, in most cases. I didn’t pick my brown eyes and you didn’t pick your eye color. You’re no different for that. Let me tell you something else. There are kids in this room today, statistically, I know it’s true, that have some sort of
mental health issue. Hopefully, they’re being
treated here in school. Someday, many of you will have children. Statistically, some of them will have mental health problems. So when do you think will be a good time to start to change the discussion? To start a different conversation without judgment or stigma? We can do it now or we can
wait for your children. And they can sit on the
bleachers with their wet eyes. It’s not right. It’s not morally right. And it’s not necessary. When I was a kid, one of my
friend’s mothers was quite sick. I finally built the courage up to ask my mother what was wrong with her. We were alone in the
kitchen of our house, alone. I said, “What’s wrong
with Jimmy’s mother?” and my mother bent over and she whispered that Jimmy’s mother had cancer. She whispered it. Some people in my childhood
didn’t even say the word cancer. They would say he or she has the C word. In my childhood, I never heard
an adult say the word breast, other than Hugh Hefner
in Playboy Magazine. 1954. It’s true. People whispered the word
cancer, if they said it at all. And no one, other than Hugh
Hefner, said the word breast. Some decades later, some
brave person or people said why don’t we put those two words together? Get a color, namely pink, a megaphone, and go to the Times
Square and say, “Enough. Enough already.” 300,000 women last year had
breast cancer diagnoses. Their results are dramatically different. Why? Cuz we finally started talking about it. I can’t look at the color pink without thinking about Breast Cancer. I bet you can’t either. The Patriots wear pink,
the Red Sox wear pink. What’s the color for mental health? In the 1980s, when the AIDS epidemic hit, people were dying when
we found out about it. And we said, “What’s going
on with these people?” Maybe they’re bad people. Maybe they’re doing bad things. Who are they? We quarantined them, we stigmatized them. Can I get AIDS if I’m in the same room with someone, If I touch them? And then Magic Johnson of
the Los Angeles Lakers, superstar Magic Johnson, went to a bank of microphones in
California, October 1991. He said, “I have HIV.” Suddenly, it not only okay
to have HIV, we loved Magic. We had to find a cure or a treatment. He’s doing fine today, 25 years later. Mental health has never
had a Magic Johnson moment. It desperately needs one. And you can make that happen, if you want. Sometimes people say how close with this. Sometimes people say it’s
hard to change the culture. Maybe if you make it hard, it is. When I was a kid, my
parents used to take us out to dinner every Thursday night. My father was a high
school chemistry teacher. He must’ve been paid on
Thursdays, that’s why we went out. At the restaurant that we went to, every table had an ashtray. Every table. Several had many ashtrays. Every one in that restaurant was smoking. My parents smoked. My parents worshiped my sister and myself, as they blew smoke in our
face across the table. And then we’d leave that smoke chamber that strives as a restaurant and go home. Every room in my house had an ashtray. The bathrooms had ashtrays. My bedroom, my sister’s bedroom were the only rooms that didn’t. Can you find an ashtray today? Can you find one? I haven’t seen one in
years and years and years. They’re not in your car anymore. If you had said to me
one of those smoky nights in the restaurant, when I was a kid. If you said, “John, in your lifetime, ashtrays will disappear.” I would’ve said, nah,
that’s not happening. I’ll be smoking, but
then that’s disappearing. We used to have a black
and white television set. I know what you’re thinking. How old is that guy? But that’s what we had. It had three channels, by the way, and it went off the air at midnight. And no one had ever used
the word in-ter-net. Somehow, we survived it. Some nights on the news, I
would see African Americans being attacked by police
dogs or billy clubs. They seemed to be minding their own business, marching peacefully. I didn’t know why they were marching, but they weren’t bothering anyone. It was very upsetting to watch. I said to my mother one night,
“Where is that happening? Is that in some faraway place?” and she wasn’t proud of it. She said, “No, unfortunately, it’s happening in the United States.” President Barack Obama. I didn’t know the president. I was Chief Justice when he was elected. My mother had passed by
then, but her voice remained. And she said to me, “You
better be down there. This is really important.” And so I bought an airline ticket, I flew to Washington for the inauguration. And I stood on the mall that day, with 1.3 million of my closest friends. And by then, I knew Barack Obama’s voice and I heard it live. I heard history being made, live. Where I was on the mall, he
was about two inches tall, I was so far away. On the jumbotron, he
was about 15 feet tall. And when he took the oath of office as President of the United States, I was thinking, that day, of my mother and that which was
impossible in her lifetime. And that which I would’ve
bet you my ashtray would’ve been impossible in my own. Well it’s now part of the history and fabric of the United States. If we can eliminate
ashtrays from a culture where everyone smoked, and elect an African
American president twice, from the culture I grew up in, we can’t learn the five signs? You don’t have to go outside. You don’t have to join a march. You don’t have to write a check. But you do need to change your mind. And you need to learn what
it is and what it isn’t. And the reason you wanna do that is not because I’ve asked you. It’s because it’ll matter in your life. It will matter in your life. There may be some of your classmates here this morning, some of your friends. Maybe yourself. Who’s having mental health issues. Nothing to be afraid of, by the way. Nothing to be afraid of. Do it for them. Maybe do it for someone else’s
children 20 years from now. Or we can just keep kicking
the can down the road and say we’ll just keep it quiet. And we’ll lose another
generation to the shadows. We need to change. If I can do this all by
myself, I would do it. But I can’t. And my generation had an opportunity, and they didn’t seize it. Your generation needs
to force the discussion. There’s no shame and no stigma. I need your help. Thank you very much. (audience claps) You’re gonna spoil me if you do that. I wanna ask the commissioner
to come up for a few minutes. He does more than just come to schools. He’s responsible for an
initiative here with Dartmouth. That he and Dartmouth, I
wasn’t involved in it, created. As valuable as the five signs, and a lot of the credit belongs
to the commissioner too. Commissioner. – Thank you. (audience claps) Thank you for your
attention during that story. We are here, I am here, because
I care about all of you. I know the judge is here, because the judge cares about all of you. I know that your teachers and
your administrators are here because they care deeply
about every one of you. and the judge held up the five signs, which I hope many of you, at this point in time, are familiar with. This comes from,
and it talks about, it’s got these little smiley
faces, which are kinda cute. But it talks about the
signs of mental illness. Are you not feeling like
yourself, for some reason? Are you feeling overly agitated? Are you withdrawn? Are you not caring for yourself
anymore and you know it, or is it one of your friends not caring for one of themselves? Are you feeling hopeless? A couple of months ago,
Dartmouth-Hitchcock came to the Department of Education and they said to me, “We wanna do something for the students.” And we thought about it a little bit, and I said, “you know,
I love this program. And it’s great because
it identifies for us and it helps us diagnose mental illness. But I said, “I want to give the students something that they can do about it.” And so we created a program called REACT. So, if you find yourself among
these little smiley faces, if you have friends that
these little smiley faces remind you of, if you have family members, if you have parents. Then, you can turn over to the other side, and look at this REACT program, and you can do something about it. They are very easy things to do. The first is to recognize the
signs of emotional suffering, which we have right here. Be willing to consider these. The second is that you can express concern and you can offer your
support because many times, what we need is we need
someone to come alongside and enable someone to do
something about mental illness. To feel equipped and to feel empowered. To be able to reach out for help. And so that you can act now. Talk to parents or teachers or coaches, or a relative or a friend or a doctor. There are, again, teachers
and administrators throughout your school building who are happy to help
you if you find yourself or you have a friend that you recognize in these little smiley faces. Care enough to follow through. And then, there’s a 24/7
text line and hotline that you can reach out with
to get professional help. So we just want to thank
Dartmouth-Hitchcock for their efforts to make
this program available to all of the students in New Hampshire and I wanna thank, again, Judge Broderick for his willingness to
invest in your lives and to help with this important issue. So thank you so much for
your attention this morning. We certainly appreciate it. Make sure you get one of these. I know they’re around your school. Find one of em and take
it home with you today. Thanks, kids. (audience claps) (upbeat music)

31 thoughts on “Reducing the Stigma of Mental Health”

  1. Hello I decided to create a YouTube channel in hopes to bring prevention/awareness to suicide and mental illness to our youth. To hopefully one day have a mental health class as apart of every schools curriculum. I also write poetry that relates to the subject as well as my own life’s struggles.
    I know about suicide and mental illness first hand as my husband committed suicide in 2006 while in a heated argument with me on the phone. I was a widow at age 22 with a 1 1/2 year old daughter. His suicide was such a major impact on my mental illness, after his death I’m now diagnosed with depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, and mood disorder..
    Iv been through hell and back and now see it was all apart of gods plan. I now have 3kids and the most understanding and amazing fiancé ever.
    I’m also here to provide any advice to someone going through something similar.
    I believe if my husband and I were more educated on mental illness then he could have got the help he needed and I would have known what to look for as his wife to help him.

    Thanks for reading!
    Let me no if u may have any advice for me, for I’m new to YouTube and just learning the basics!

    Thanks Erin Bryant

    Sent from my iPhone

  2. Hi I'm Amy I'm 22 , I have my own channel dedicated to mental illness , I'm a third year psychology student and most importantly I know the daily struggles of self harm, suicidal thoughts, mental hospitals. I was diagnosed at 18 with Bipolar , anxiety and BPD.
    Please subscribe to my channel for more videos on mental health and living with it .
    Thanks guys X
    Amy & Hannah Prince

  3. trying to change the way we look at mental health through visuals and public figures:

  4. I am an avid #MentalHealthAwareness advocate and performer, and I love this so much. I travel the country trying to bring that awareness on stages, in classrooms, hospitals, and on my YouTube channel, so I get excited when I see other advocates. 💙❤


  6. I wrote an article about this topic. Please feel free to review or critique

  7. so glad this vid is out there. i released a music video about mental illness / it has a dancer expressing how it feels

  8. I cant speak for women. But for men, no one will ever admit to mental illness because then it means the chances of you getting laid is substanyially reduced. UNless you already have a girlfriend. For every woman who thinks the stigma of mental health should be elliminated, ask yourself if you would date a man who is telling everyone he is diagnosed with clinical depression. Most women would not give this man a chance. Men know this and therefore as MEN, we cannot admit any type of emotional distress that would impact our chances at sexual relationships.

  9. I'm trying to promote mental health awareness among a population that unfortunately stigmatizes it.

  10. The stigma comes with lack of employment, we tend to cost more against a company's health insurance policy so we aren't likely to get a job that offers health benefits.

  11. If mental health no longer exists would be the happiest day of my life. I would finally be able to understand people. Everyone can hear others without yelling. Everyone would talk normally

  12. They need to change the way professionals treat the mentally ill..I know as I have been mistreated and humiliated by the medical and psychiatric professionals during an 11 year stint in and out of mental hospitals..We don't need drugs! We need LOVE..We need real group therapys not crayons and a coloring book…

  13. I want to change how we are treated but, no one will listen to me because of the stigma….If someone can help please contact me…

  14. there is no way to reduce the stigma of mental health, im not being negative i just experience it and been experiencing for 10 years straight! Everybody i know friends, family member all, people from the past who come back into your life and you share will all judge you, well at least they did and do to me from my parents, bro sis, cousins so called friends, bro inlaw sis in law you name it. I tried even hitting on girls at the pharmacy where i get my medicine and they take 1 look at the bottle and deny me, it has happened 3 x already where I KNOW they like me but once again that bottle ruins it all and im like wow. it really sucks because when i had everything everybody loved me, was jealous of me, wanted me around NOW they can care less. i go to family functions and literally im all alone in my corner by choice cause im tired of all these years cousins all are different with me and i can tell 1-2-3. ex gf's even found out which i have no idea how and still not that i want any of them back hell no but shocked how they know and what they say. friends who didnt know and were cool and wanted to know i told and afterwards never heard from ever again. i feel alone which i dont mind cause i love to be alone but also because of this i have no social life even when you try people treat you like complete garbage. i get so furious i wanna turn into mike tyson and just blasting but im scared of jail. no i am not violent or anything but the way everybody treats me they drive you to that point. they dont ask nothing, not about my problem but in my life in general when i get together with people its allllllllllll about them and im like wow thats fucking selfish shit. i try to find people, new people but in todays world everybody has got fucking crazy so its hard to find friend or even girls to sleep with and have fun and on top of that you have everybody who does know about your problem treating you soooooooo different like a piece of garbage like you dont exist

  15. i think i don’t have a mental health problem but as a person that has survived traumatic events occuring since childhood the best thing i can say is that there is always calm before and after the storm…for me watching this keeps me feeling safe and sane and centered

  16. With a seemingly altruistic agenda, the fact is the campaign to end the “stigma” of mental illness is one driven and funded by those who BENEFIT from more and more people being labeled mentally ill. Pharma, psychiatry and pharmaceutical front groups such as NAMI and CHADD to name but a few. For example, take NAMI’s campaign to stop the “stigma” and “end discrimination” against the mentally ill, the “Founding Sponsors” were Abbott Labs, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Eli Lilly, Janssen, Pfizer, Novartis, SmithKline Beecham and Wyeth-Ayerst Labs. So next time you see an ad promoting “stop the stigma” see it for what it is, a pharmaceutical marketing campaign.

  17. I try to help reduce stigma by talking about my illness in safe environments. This was a great speech/story. I thank everyone for helping reduce stigma of mental health

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