Judge Broderick Addresses TA Student Body on Mental Illness
Vermont Governor Phil Scott, Attorney General TJ Donovan also speak
Three hundred students listened intently during a special assembly program on Tuesday, Feb. 26, as former New Hampshire Chief Justice John Broderick addressed Thetford Academy students on the topic of mental illness.
Special guests for the presentation included Vermont Governor Phil Scott and Attorney General TJ Donovan, both of whom spoke briefly following the judge’s remarks. Also present were Dan French, Vermont Secretary of the Agency of Education; Al Gobeille, Secretary of the Agency of Human Services; Sarah Squirrell, Mental Health Commissioner; and Susanne Young, Vermont Administration Secretary.
Judge Broderick, who has has been speaking with middle and high school students across New England about mental health issues for nearly three years, narrated the story of his son’s battle with mental illness and alcohol addiction, stressing that he and his wife, as well as his son’s school and community, missed the signs of mental illness that eventually led him down a dark path.
After experiencing homelessness and the downward spiral of addiction, acts of violence, and deep desperation, his son landed in prison, where he was eventually diagnosed with depression and given medication that transformed his life. His son is now happily married and has a ten-year-old child.
Judge Broderick, praising the current generation of students for their openness and tolerance, urged students to become as familiar with the signs of mental illness as they are with the signs of physical illness. He shared that mental illness touches nearly everyone in some way, whether through friends, family members, or oneself, and encouraged students to talk about it without shame or fear.
Students responded with a standing ovation, and many congregated around the judge at the end of the program.
Attorney General Donovan reinforced the judge’s story by relaying a personal story about a sibling who suffers from mental illness. And Governor Scott concluded the program with remarks urging students to be positive role models for one another.