JOINS COUNTYWIDE EFFORT TO END STIGMA RELATED TO MENTAL ILLNESS AND SUBSTANCE USE DISORDERS
The Board of Education of the Chester School District has passed a Stigma-Free resolution, becoming the latest school district in the county to do so, joining the majority of Morris County towns participating in the countywide effort to eradicate the stigma associated with mental illness and substance use disorders.
Both Chester Borough and Chester Township are members of the Stigma-Free initiative, as are 34 of Morris County’s 39 towns.
“We are extremely proud to be part of such a compassionate community and I think that is reflected in our desire to support all of our students, parents and community members by being a part of Stigma Free,’’ said Chester School District Superintendent Christina Van Woert.
The Chester School District is the newest member of a less-than-three-year-old grass roots movement that recognizes the high prevalence of mental illness and substance use disorders in our communities.
The Stigma-Free initiative promotes re-education and understanding that can lead to treatment and recovery – minus the stigma associated with these illnesses.
Leaders of this movement from across the county are now working with school districts and faith-based groups to become active participants.
As part of the countywide initiative, residents are urged to take the Stigma Free Pledge: https://morriscountystigmafree.org/take-the-pledge/
“We are pleased that the Chester School District is supporting this Stigma-Free initiative,’’ said Morris County Freeholder Director Doug Cabana. “We look forward to the energy and support that students in Chester Borough and Chester Township can bring to this initiative in helping affected people seek recovery, without fear of stigma or reprisal.’’
The Morris County Board of Freeholders in 2016 passed a resolution designating Morris County as a Stigma-Free County and asked all of the county’s towns to consider enrolling.
County College of Morris and the Morris County School of Technology have supported the effort, with Montville joining in 2017 as the first school district in the county to pass a resolution to join the initiative. County Sheriff James M. Gannon also has been a leading partner in the effort.
The Stigma-Free initiative encourages participating towns, communities, school districts and organizations to participate in an active way through educational programs, events and/or active discussion.
Morris County has created a Stigma Free website www.morriscountystigmafree.orgto 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 Toolkitalso is available for towns, schools, colleges and universities, and faith-based organizations.
The Chester School District is an elementary district responsible for the education of students in Kindergarten through eighth grades. It serves two municipalities, Chester Borough and Chester Township.
The district is composed of Dickerson Elementary School (K-2), Bragg Intermediate School (3-5), and Black River Middle School (6-8). Students in grades nine through twelve go to the West Morris Regional High School District.
Here are just a few of many voices in Morris County supporting the Stigma-Free Initiative:
Chester Borough Mayor Janet Hoven: “Mental illness and drug abuse touch the lives of many, not only in Chester Borough, but in all of society. No one should feel less of a person regardless of an illness or addiction. We support the initiative and hope that through this program, all residents will feel accepted and supported by all.’’
Chester Township Mayor Marcia Asdal: “We understand that mental illness and addiction affect every community, and we know that no family or school or business is immune. So Chester Township is proud to join the Stigma-Free initiative in Morris County, to help encourage people in our community their friends or family members or colleagues in trouble to seek treatment that could help lead them to recovery.’’
Montville School Superintendent Rene Rovtar: We feel it is important that students feel that if they are struggling with any mental health issues that they know that it is okay not to be okay, and that many resources are available to help them. We want all of our students and staff to know that the district stands ready to support them with no stigma attached.”
Stigma is defined as a mark of disgrace which results from the judgment by others. When individuals are 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.