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May 23, 2016 7:16 PM

NH launches statewide initiative to raise mental health awareness

Mental health conditions affect thousands of people in the Granite State.

Health experts say it's a subject that's been scary to talk about in the past, but isn't so easy to avoid anymore.

A new statewide campaign, the first of its kind, was launched Monday to raise awareness.

"We need to find those people and approach them in a loving and caring way, and we need to retrieve their futures, not attend their funerals," national founder of Change Direction Barbara Van Dahle said.

Nearly one in five adults in New Hampshire has a diagnosable mental health disorder.

"This is not a military issue, it is not a vet issue, it is not a New Hampshire issue, it is not an American issue, it is a human issue," Van Dahle said.

Mental health issues have always carried a stigma, but the new statewide campaign to change direction aims to teach people the signs so those suffering can get the help they need.

"People with mental illness are our friends, our families and our neighbors who are in need of appropriate care," Gov. Maggie Hassan said.

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen pointed to the recent shootings of two Manchester police officers.

"We heard the father say, 'The mental health system failed my son,'" Sen. Jeanne Shaheen said. "That is what this campaign is about. Making sure we don't fail our sons and daughters, husbands and wives in the state of N.H."

Those with the campaign say mental illness needs to be treated just like any other health issue, and it's a conversation we, as a state, must have.

"I don't say that as a person of righteousness. I failed my own son 'cause I didn't know," co-chair of Change Direction N.H. John Broderick said.

Changing the culture of mental health is a pressing challenge, but bringing the issue out of the shadows is a good start.

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