COUNTYWIDE INITIATIVE TO END STIGMA RELATED TO MENTAL ILLNESS AND SUBSTANCE ABUSE DISORDERS
The Victory Gardens Borough Council has passed a resolution to declare the borough Stigma-Free, making the total 28 of the county’s 39 towns to join the Morris County “Stigma Free’’ initiative that aims to help eradicate the stigma associated with mental illness and substance abuse disorders.
This grass roots initiative recognizes the high prevalence of mental illness and substance use disorders in our communities, and promotes re-education and understanding that can help lead to treatment and recovery – minus the stigma associated with these illnesses.
“The Stigma-Free initiative is much needed in our community and throughout Morris County,’’ said Victory Gardens Mayor David L. Holeman.
“We can extend our hand out to someone in need, who can grab it and get the help he or she needs. When people ask where can I go for help, we now have answers for them. This initiative is well worth it.’’
Victory Gardens joins a majority of Morris County municipalities that have signed on as Stigma-Free communities.
Other Stigma-Free towns are Boonton, Boonton Township, Butler, Chatham Borough, Chatham Township, Denville, Dover, East Hanover, Hanover, Jefferson, Lincoln Park, Long Hill, Madison, Mendham Borough, Mine Hill, Montville, Morris Plains, Morristown, Morris Township, Mountain Lakes, Parsippany, Pequannock, Randolph, Rockaway Borough, Rockaway Township, Roxbury, and Washington Township, plus the Montville Township School District.
“This initiative is an important step in helping affected people seek recovery, without fear of stigma or reprisal,’’ said Morris County Freeholder Director Doug Cabana. “But it is only support shown for this Stigma-Free initiative by towns like Victory Gardens, and their officials and residents, that can make this grass roots effort succeed.’’
The Morris County Board of Freeholders in 2016 passed a resolution designating Morris County as a Stigma-Free County, joining an already established movement as a partner, and urging all of the county’s 39 towns to join the movement.
There is a Stigma Free website www.morriscountystigmafree.org to call attention to the initiative, provide information and resources, and a calendar of upcoming events related to mental illness and substance abuse. A Stigma Free Toolkit also is available for towns and communities.
The goal of this grass-roots Stigma Free initiative is to disseminate information and foster a stigma-free environment where people are free from judgment and can get the help they need to recover.
Here are just a few of the many voices in Morris County supporting the initiative:
Mine Hill Mayor Sam Morris. “It’s important for people who are encountering a mental health or dependency issue to feel free from stigma and embarrassment. “None of us would scorn someone who needs medical help with diabetes or a heart condition. It should be the same consideration for people with mental illness and dependency as well.”
Lincoln Park Mayor David Runfeldt: “The issues of dependency and mental health affect all of us in our communities one way or another,’’ said “This initiative gets assistance to those who need it and acceptance to those that deserve it.”
Pequannock Mayor Melissa Florance-Lynch: “I am thrilled that the Township of Pequannock has joined the Morris County Stigma-Free initiative. In one way or another, everyone is affected by problems of mental illness and substance abuse and we want people to know the community is here to help.”
As part of the countywide initiative, residents are urged to take the Stigma Free Pledge:
- As a supporter to those who have a mental illness or substance use disorder, I understand the importance of recognizing the high prevalence of mental illness and substance use disorders.
- I also know that when recognition is coupled with reeducation and understanding, health-seeking action can be taken. These actions lead to recovery, which is possible for everyone.
- The Three R’s (recognize, reeducate and reduce) depend on each other to effectively Stamp Out Stigma surrounding mental illness and substance use disorders.
- This is what I, as an individual, charge myself to do—to fully Stamp Out Stigma and clear the path to health-seeking behavior. It begins with me.
Stigma is defined as a mark of disgrace which results from the judgment by others. When an individual is labeled by their illness they experience judgment and prejudice. Stigma brings experiences and feelings of shame, embarrassment, distress, hopelessness and reluctance to seek or accept help.