Wednesday, January 4, 2017

The Five Signs

“I wish I had known the five signs 20 years ago, it could have made a difference in my family’s life; it can make a difference to you now.”  -- Former Chief Justice John Broderick

January 3, 2017

Dear Parents:

Happy New Year! I hope that you and your children were able to enjoy a little downtime during the holidays.  For many, the holidays are a time of joy and laughter. However, we know they can also be a difficult time for some families and friends because personal challenges are larger and more complex than we are prepared to admit or to handle without help.

In that spirit, our schools, along with public schools throughout New Hampshire, are sending home a simple informational card, called The Five Signs. It describes the five major signs of emotional distress, which can be connected to mental health issues.  Whether things in your family’s life are going well or someone is facing challenges, I am hopeful you will read this simple information and that perhaps it leads to a family discussion about the importance of mental health, and the need to communicate when and if there are any signs of problems that rise above what most of us would call a bad day or a tough stretch.

This letter is not intended to make any assumptions about your family’s state of well-being.  It is rather an invitation to shed light on a topic that impacts 20% of the nation’s families, and is frequently not met with necessary treatment that can and will make a tremendous difference to those facing mental health challenges.

Perhaps this information will be useful in your workplace, or among other members of the family, with neighbors and/or friends.  The Five Signs card is part of a statewide awareness campaign sponsored by Change Direction NH.  Co-chair, former NH Supreme Court Justice John Broderick, is touring the state, talking to civic groups, businesses, school leaders, students and families, encouraging them to help him break the stigma of silence around mental health challenges. Judge Broderick’s goal is for people to recognize these signs as quickly as they might recognize signs of a stroke.

John Broderick speaks from experience on this issue, and he has become a high profile leader in raising awareness about mental health.  His personal story is one of both tragedy and triumph, as his own family is dealing with mental health issues.  As his quote above suggests, if he had known about these five signs when his own grown son was much younger, he might have spotted trouble before it grew.  Justice Broderick will be speaking to our Bedford community on the evening of January 19th from 6:00 pm to 8:00 p.m. at the Lurgio Middle School Library. I invite you and all those in our community to attend, to listen to his message, and to join in this effort to recognize that mental illness is a disease. Just like any other disease, it cannot be treated with silence and stigma, but instead with communication and active treatment. [The evening event will be most appropriate for parents. There is a voluntary student event at the high school at 1:30 and a staff event at 3:30 at Peter Woodbury School.]

Talk to your children, invite them to learn the five signs and not to be afraid to speak out if they feel this way inside, or perhaps see these signs in others around them.  We can all take part in helping those who often don’t recognize they need help themselves, but can overcome their challenges with compassion and communication.
If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to my office or to email me directly at mcgeec@sau25.net.  My very best wishes to you and your family for a prosperous and healthy 2017.

Sincerely,
Chip McGee