Late Concord principal's family shares his struggle with mental illness, depression

New Hampshire Union Leader
June 03. 2018 1:23AM


CONCORD — The family of a popular Concord elementary school principal who died unexpectedly last week has shared that he suffered from depression.

Mill Brook Elementary School Principal Phil Callanan was known by his past and present colleagues as someone with a ready smile for everyone and who liked to engage with the schoolchildren in lively conversation and physical activity.

But in his obituary, the family said Callanan, 52, had of late battled with mental illness.

“The last few years have been a struggle for Phil, and this took its toll on him,” the obituary said. “Mental illness is not something to hide. It’s something that needs to be out there where we can all be open to helping the people who need us most.”

School officials confirmed that Callanan died last Wednesday.

“As a family we want nothing more than people to realize that Phil was an incredible man who was also haunted by this battle with depression,” the obituary reads. “Please know that it’s OK to talk to someone if you feel alone. Reach out if you notice someone who is crying for help. Don’t let this disease take someone else’s loved one away. We all have power to make a change so let’s do this in his memory.”

There are no calling hours scheduled for Callanan, and the burial will be private.

Anyone wishing to honor Callanan’s memory is encouraged to donate to a scholarship named after his two daughters, The Lucy and Paisley Memorial Fund.

A Methuen, Mass., native, Callanan’s life is celebrated in the obituary as someone who was an avid sports fan and was devoted to his wife, Kelly Callanan and their four children: two sons and two daughters.

Callanan took over as principal of the Mill Brook School in 2015. He previously had served as the principal of Newport’s Richards Elementary School and Towle Elementary School, from 2012 until June 2015.

Over a 20-year career, he began as a teacher in Manchester before becoming assistant principal of the Webster Elementary School and then principal of the Parker-Varney School in the city. He was also the one-time president of the Association of Manchester School Principals.

On the funeral home’s website, tributes for Callanan as a colleague, mentor and friend poured in from Manchester, Newport and other parts of the state.

“We never know how long or short our lives will be, that is why we should value and appreciate the people that the Lord sends to us!!! Rest in peace!!!” wrote Mary Luckers, a Manchester teacher. “The students appreciated you so very much!!!”

A former co-worker in Newport commented on Callanan’s sense of humor and wit.

“I will always remember Phil as being an incredible individual with his love and concern for our students here at Newport,” posted Barbara Kvetcovsky, “He always had a smile and a joke and could always make me laugh when we met. He touched so many lives and made a difference to so many. Deepest sympathy to all of you.”

An acquaintance praised Callanan’s talents as a father.

“I always admired his obvious love and pride in his beautiful little girls,” wrote Nicole Aubin of Manchester. “It showed so much what a great dad he was. I wish I would have known his inner struggles so I could have shared my experiences with him and lend a positive word or hug,” she wrote.

Former Supreme Court Chief Justice John Broderick helped start the Campaign to Change Direction, a five-year effort to alter the public’s attitude toward mental illness and has said it begins with people becoming more open about what they are facing so that residents realize how prevalent it is.

“It’s often awkward for people to talk about it, but it’s even more awkward to deal with,” Broderick said. “So we’re trying to get companies to realize it’s not just in their financial interest to hire and retain good employees who may be struggling with mental health, but it’s also the right and decent thing to do.”

The Hopkinton Fire Department responded to a medical aid call for Philip Callanan’s home in town, Chief Jeffrey Yales said. He could not provide further details on the circumstances of the call.

ElementaryDeaths in the newsNH PeopleConcordHopkintonManchester

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