Stigma Free Morris County Essay Contest for Jr. High and High School Students

Two $250 Prizes Offered by Stigma-Free Initiative Member and Sponsor: Boonton United Methodist Church & Montville United Methodist Church

A countywide Stigma-Free essay contest is underway in Morris County, with separate categories for junior high school and high school students who are are encouraged to write about the stigma surrounding mental illness and addiction, and to offer some ways to encourage students and other county residents to come out of the shadows and get the help they need.

Submission Deadline:  December 31, 2018

Who can Participate:  Any junior high school (grades 6-8) or high school student (grades 9-12) attending school in Morris County.

Award: Two awards of $250  — one each for a grade 6-to-8 student and a grades 9-to-12 student. A $150 Amazon gift card will go to each selected student and $100 will go towards a project selected by each student to further eliminate the stigma of issues, such as mental health disorders, substance use disorders, or others.

Primary Essay Topic: Write a 1-2 page essay (double spaced, 12-pt. Times New Roman font with 1-inch margins) on how a stigmatized issue, such as a mental health disorder or substance use disorder, has impacted you or those you know personally, and what suggestions you might offer to your community to help lessen the negative impact of the stigma surrounding the issue being addressed in your essay.

Two Additional Short Writings: In addition to and separate from your essay, using no more than 100 words, describe why is it important to be stigma-free. Also, using no more than 200 words, describe a project you would like to initiate to help eliminate the stigma attached to any of these issues, if you were awarded the prize.

Take a look at just a few statistics on particular issues that often are associated with stigma:

  • In the past five years, nearly 11,000 individuals died in New Jersey alone from drug overdoses. Nationally, in 2017, some 72,000 lives were lost to overdoses, the leading cause of death, and with a 10 percent increase from 2016.
  • More than 120 people in America die from suicide each day. This death toll has been increasing every year since 2000, and for each life lost to suicide, there are many more suicide attempts.
  • One in five people experience a diagnosable mental health disorder, but the average individual with symptoms doesn’t seek help for 8-to-10 years.

To stigmatize someone means to place a mark of disgrace or reproach upon them. When stigmas are placed on individuals or groups, they often lead to prejudices, discrimination, and misunderstandings. Many individuals who experience substance use disorders or mental health disorders do not seek help because of fear, shame, or judgment from friends or family.

The Boonton United Methodist Church and Montville United Methodist Church, which are members of the Morris County Stigma-Free community, are working to eliminate the stigma associated with those who deal with mental health disorders, substance use disorders, and more. Eliminating such stigmas will better enable and empower individuals to get the resources they need without judgment and allow everyone to be more aware, educated, and alert to these often hidden and misunderstood issues.

The sponsors of this contest challenge any jr. high or high school student to pick one topic under the category of stigmatized issues (e.g. any mental health disorder or substance use disorder), a few examples of which are bullet-pointed above, and write a 1-2 page essay, along with the two additional short writings, as detailed and outlined above.

Submissions should be emailed to Pastor Donald Kirschner at pastordonaldk44@gmail.com. In your email, please include your name, grade level, and what school you attend when submitting your essay and short writings.

Feel free to also email with any questions you might have regarding the essay contest. The winners of the Stigma-Free Essay Contest will be notified and announced in January of 2019.