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Book Review: Backroads and Highways

Book Review: Backroads and Highways

Backroads and Highways: My Journey to  Discovery on Mental Health

by  John T. Broderick, Jr.

One thing that commonly happens is an adult will get in touch with us for help. It could be a parent, a coach, or a school administrator. They know that something just isn’t right with the child or children in question, but they can’t exactly pin it down, and they don’t know what to do about it.

We know what’s wrong with the children and what to do about it, and now we have a great resource to give to these folks: the book Backroads and Highways: My Journey to Discovery on Mental Health, by John Broderick, Jr. John happens to be Retired Chief Justice of the N.H. Supreme Court but is now Senior Director of External Affairs for Dartmouth Health and has been a fellow traveler on our crusade to help the many kids who suffer from anxiety and depression and what we call “Outcome Fever” (which you can read about here and here) in this day and age.

John’s story began when a mental health problem tragically and publicly took his whole family unawares. Realizing during this ordeal that mental health issues still have a terrible stigma attached to them, John set out to change that. The first part of Backroads and Highways tells his family’s story and how John ended up working to start a new conversation about mental health.

As part of this, John began working for Dartmouth Health and speaking to groups. That led to him telling his story to middle- and high-school students. At last count, John has visited more than 300 schools and shared his family’s experience with 100,000 people.

Although you might think that pre-teens and teenagers would be bored listening to a grandfather talk about mental health, it turns out nothing is further from the truth—they are riveted. And, after John’s talks, kids line up like they do for Santa so they can thank him, get a hug, or, often, tell him about their own struggles. As John says, he has hugged this problem literally thousands of times.

Kids tell John they are stressed. They tell John they are anxious. And they sometimes tell John they want to harm or kill themselves. And they tell him why. It is by reading this section—which is heartbreaking—where you can start to understand how global, societal influences have us all by the throat and are harming our children—and us, too. These influences both affect kids directly and also cause parents to parent differently—using what we call The New Parenting Playbook—infecting their kids (and themselves) with Outcome Fever, where kids are judged by their accomplishments and not who they are.

In the last section, John outlines why we are in this mess and why we need to overhaul the delivery of mental health services in this country.

This is all important stuff, and we strongly encourage you to read this book and then discuss it with your children. With all of the presentations he’s done, chances are good if you live in New England that John has presented to, if not hugged, your kid. A story he doesn’t tell in Backroads and Highways is one day, John presented to a group of doctors. As always when he presents to adults, John encourages them to talk to their kids about these issues. One doctor did just that when he got home and sat his two daughters down to have a heart-to-heart about what he had learned. To his surprise, they both smiled. “You’ve met the Judge,” they said knowingly. Here’s your chance to meet the Judge, too. And once you do, you’ll understand a whole lot better what kids today are facing.

Justice Broderick’s book can be ordered on Amazon.

If you want even more information on why kids today are struggling with stress, anxiety, Outcome Fever, etc., and some tips on what you can do to help your kids, we also encourage you to read our free booklet, Raising Children in the Digital Age: The Cultural Causes of the Anxiety Crisis in Children and What We Adults Can do to Help Them.