News & Events

Successful Stigma-Free Effort at Whippany Park High School

Whippany Park Proud to Be Stigma FreeThe Hanover Township Substance Awareness Council presented “A Conversation About the Opioid Epidemic” on Wednesday, Dec. 5, 7 p.m., at Whippany Park High School.

Each of the three speakers – former football player Jeff Hatch, and mother and daughter Kayla Grammer and Tracy Smith – emphasized stigma in their presentations and as part of the discussion afterward with the audience.

Hanover Township is a member of the Morris County Stigma-Free initiative, a grassroots county-wide effort that aims to eradicate the stigma associated with mental illness and substance use disorders. Members of the initiative are dedicated to raising awareness of these illnesses by creating an environment where affected individuals are supported in their efforts to achieve wellness and recovery.

Whippany Park Stigma Free poster

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.

Tackling Opioids — Prevention for Athletes

A special forum on dealing with opioids when it comes to young athletes who are facing treatment for injury and pain will be held on the morning of Wednesday, Dec. 5 at the Morris County Human Services complex at 1 Medical Drive, Morris Plains, on the former Greystone campus.

This event is specially designed for school administrators, school nurses, coaches, and athletic directors, as well as parents of athletes and the community-at-large.

Sponsored by the Community Coalition for a Safe and Healthy Morris, the forum will teach you about best practices for reducing the use and misuse of prescription opioids among young athletes.

It will introduce you to the TOP Toolkit, developed by the New Jersey Prevention Network (NJPN). The Toolkit will provide policy recommendations as well as educational materials and other resources to help reduce the risk factors that are leading to opiate use among this high-risk population!

Join the Community Coalition for a Safe and Healthy Morris for this exciting event!

Date: Wednesday, Dec. 5
Time: 9:30 a.m.- 12p.m.
Location: 1 Medical Drive, Morris Plains – Morris County Department of Human Services Conference Room

RSVP by Nov. 30 by calling 973-625-1998.

Stigma-Free Conversation about Opioid Epidemic — Dec. 5 at Whippany Park High School

Former NFL Player Talks About Use and Recovery; and Mom and Daughter Share Their Story

The Hanover Township Substance Awareness Council will present “A Conversation About the Opioid Epidemic” on Wednesday, Dec. 5 at Whippany Park High School.

Listen to their stories, ask questions, and be part of the conversation.

Jeff Hatch was a University of Pennsylvania graduate and first-team football All American. He was drafted by the N.Y. Giants and played for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He will discuss his journey from injury and substance abuse to long-term recovery.

A mother and daughter will tell their family tale of opioid abuse. Kayla Grammer reflects on her teenage substance use and her route from addiction to recovery. Mom, Tracy Smith, speaks to the fight to keep her daughter healthy. Listen to their story and how it could help your family.

Admission to this event is free and open to all local and county residents. Don’t let a town border stop you from driving to Hanover Township and visiting Whippany Park High School for this event on Wednesday evening.

Whippany Park High School is located at 165 Whippany Road, Whippany, N.J. 07981.

Hanover Township is a member of the Morris County Stigma-Free initiative, a grassroots county-wide effort that aims to eradicate the stigma associated with mental illness and substance use disorders. Members of the initiative are dedicated to raising awareness of these illnesses by creating an environment where affected individuals are supported in their efforts to achieve wellness and recovery.

Boonton schools look to aid students’ mental health

By Anthony Lusardi, contributing writer of The Citizen:

BOONTON – Improving mental health of students in the grades K-12 district is the goal of a new initiative known as “THRIVE.”

When the Board of Education met on Nov.5, two of the school district’s mental health professionals, Melissa Bialick and Robin Schwalb, spoke of the volunteer initiative.

THRIVE is a committee dedicated to helping Boonton students strive to improve mental health, increase self-esteem and teach resiliency.

“This initiative was created by Robin and I because as mental health professionals we recognized that these issues, depression, anxiety, suicide, harassment intimidation and bullying, behavioral disorders, and others, significantly impact our student body, thus impacting our staff and community,” said Bialick.

“We wanted a space and a committee to serve as a preventative method for managing these issues.”

The goals of THRIVE include educating and spreading awareness of mental health issues to the school community, assessing and identifying the needs of the school district community in regards to mental health, helping to increase the resiliency and coping skills of the student body, increasing a positive climate throughout the district and spreading awareness of the proper safety procedures and protocols to follow in relation to situations that depend heavily on mental health issues.

THRIVE was first implemented during the 2017-2018 school year. Since then, the committee has held quarterly meetings with all mental-health and wellness stakeholders and has conducted a needs assessment at the district level.

They have also provided school staff with multiple professional development sessions and activities in topics related to mental health, adopted and incorporated a new curriculum for health classes to educate students on sensitive topics, created an online forum, which can be found on the Boonton schools’ website, and educated the board on the committee’s plans for the coming school year.

“The THRIVE committee is made up of staff only at this point,” said Schwalb.

“I will be starting a student advisory group very soon to make sure our students have a voice in the direction of THRIVE’s future activities. The students will be applying and will be selected by me,” she said.

“I hope to have them participate in part of our future meetings. This school year, we plan to increase our student education on mental health and coping skills,” she added.

“We are training all the district staff in regards to the newly published guidelines on transgender students and having an outside expert on gender non-conforming students. We are also starting work on a Mental Health Resource Fair in April of 2019.”

Schwalb has been a social worker on the Boonton High School’s Child Study Team for the past 16 years. She also provides counseling, crisis intervention and consultation to school staff and parents on all aspects of child/adolescent mental health. Furthermore, she is a co-adviser for Club Alliance, the high school’s LGBTQ club.

Bialick has been a psychologist at Boonton High School for the last three years. She is also the advisor of the high school’s Key Club, an after-school club open to all students that are interested in service leadership. Furthermore, she is a Gateway Mentor for Boonton’s Gateway Academy, a gifted and talented program.

Artists and Poets Wanted!

The expressive arts have many health benefits that support mental, emotional, and spiritual wellness.  Singing and drumming promote relaxation, a sense of group identity and a feeling of belonging, providing an opportunity for immediate engagement in a music experience.

On December 12th, beginning at 2:00 pm, Collaborative Support Programs of NJ’s (CSPNJ) Morris Wellness Center members will perform as a group the original song that they co-wrote “Love Each Other,“ along with poetry, a guided drum circle, an art exhibit and more. Don’t miss this opportunity come together in Celebrating Wellness Through Creative Expression! Join us at 1259 Rt 46, Building 4, Door 4D in Parsippany.

The Morris Community Wellness Center is looking for visual artists and poets to participate in the event by showcasing their artwork and reading their poetry related to mental health or addiction.

For consideration, please submit online at lifecenterstage.org/cspnj before 12/5/18.

Wellness Event flyer. Featuring music, art, poetry and drumming, the event will be held on December 12.

Morris Educational Foundation Invites Community to Attend Its Fall 2018 Parent Education Program – Raising Resilient Children and Teens

The Morris Educational Foundation (MEF), in partnership with the Morris School District’s (MSD) Office of the Superintendent, will host its first Parent Education Program of the 2018-2019 school year on Thursday, November 29th at 7 pm at Morristown High School, 50 Early Street, Morristown, NJ.

The program, Raising Resilient Children and Teens, will feature psychologist Robert Brooks, Ph.D. A faculty member of Harvard Medical School, Dr. Brooks is one of today’s leading parenting experts and authors on resilience, self-esteem, motivation and family relationships. He will provide effective strategies for nurturing resilience, self-discipline, responsibility and empathy, to help kids deal more effectively with the stress and pressure of today’s complicated, ever-changing world.

Aligning with the MSD’s goals of educating the whole child and fostering Social-Emotional Learning (SEL), Superintendent Mr. Mackey Pendergrast will introduce the program and discuss the district’s related initiatives. He will also join Dr. Brooks for the Question & Answer session that will immediately follow the keynote address.

“We are pleased to continue our Parent Education Program by bringing another esteemed expert to the greater Morristown community. In partnering with the school district, we are demonstrating our shared belief that strong social-emotional skills are critical to the academic and lifelong success of our students,” said Patty Haralampoudis, Chairperson of the MEF.
This event is free, open to the public and will address issues impacting children of all ages. Dr. Brooks will also be signing his book, Raising Resilient Children, which will be sold for the discounted price of $10. Sales will be cash only.

Registration is requested, but not required, by visiting the MEF website or by accessing the RSVP Form directly. The event flyer is also posted on the MEF website. For questions about the event, please contact one of the MEF’s Parent Education Coordinators: Jennifer Rocco (jenniferpolirocco@gmail.com) or Debra Broseker (dbroseker@yahoo.com).

This event is sponsored by the MEF and is funded in part by the Morristown Morris Township Joint Municipal Alliance and the Morris Plains Municipal Alliance. Previous MEF Parent Education Series speakers have included Dr. Maurice Elias, John O’Sullivan, Jessica Lahey, Dr. Robin Berman, and Dr. Edward Hallowell. A complete listing of these programs is available on the MEF’s website.

Robert Brooks, PhD. received his doctorate in clinical psychology from Clark University and did additional training at the University of Colorado Medical School. He is on the faculty of Harvard Medical School and has served as Director of the Department of Psychology at McLean Hospital, a private psychiatric hospital. He has a part-time private practice in which he sees children, adolescents, adults, and families and has appeared regularly on television shows in the Boston area as well as on national cable television. The author or co-author of 17 books, Dr. Brooks has also lectured nationally and internationally to audiences of parents, educators, and mental health professionals. To learn more about Dr. Brooks’ work, visit his website at drrobertbrooks.com.

About the Morris Educational Foundation: The Morris Educational Foundation is a 501 (c) (3) that seeks to attract private resources to support a variety of educational programs and initiatives in support of the Morris School District. Through effective solicitation and distribution of funds, the Morris Educational Foundation helps enable the District to continue to be the model of visionary social and educational leadership it has been since its inception. For more information, please visit the website at www.morrisedfoundation.org.

Educate Yourself, Morris County: Heroin and Opioid Abuse are Happening in Your Backyard

Lakeland Hills Family YMCA Offers ‘A Night of Conversation’ — Nov. 19 — Hear a Mom’s Story

Heroin, prescription-drug and substance abuse is happening everywhere, even in your backyard. It’s in your schools, it’s in your town, and it might even be in your home.

A Night of Conversation, a free event that is open to the community, is meant to inform you of the dangers of drug abuse and how to talk with your children — or your parents — about it. Someone you know or even love may have already experienced drug abuse.

It takes just ONE pill or one dose to begin the addiction. How did we get here? How do we stop it? How do we prevent it? Those questions and more will be discussed at the Night of Conversation on Monday, Nov. 19 at 6 p.m. at Lakeland Hills YMCA, 100 Fanny Road, Mountain Lakes. Registration is suggested.

Eileen Wallin will speak about the loss of her son last year from a heroin overdose. Hear her story to understand that the epidemic is closer to home than you might think. Also at the event:

• Guest speaker Eileen Wallin
• Introduction by Assemblyman Anthony M. Bucco
• Presentation by NJ DEA Agent Timothy McMahon
• Resources offered by Saint Clare’s Behavioral Health
• Light refreshments will be served.

The event is free and open to the public. Click here to register on the YMCA website, email  Rosemary Linder Day at RosemaryL@Lhymca.com, call 973-334-2820 or stop by. For more information, visit Lakeland Hills Family YMCA.This event is part of the countywide Morris County Stigma-Free initiative, which is focused on removing the stigma associated with mental illness and substance abuse, to foster a climate of healing and recovery.

The primary reason people fail to seek the help they need is due to the stigma associated with the disease of mental illness. Main reasons cited are shame and fear of judgment from friends, family and co-workers. Such judgment is often rooted in a lack of knowledge or training.

Morris County is committed to disseminating information and fostering a stigma-free environment where people are free from judgment and can get the help they need to recover from diseases such as mental illness and substance abuse.

Tackling Opioids Through Prevention for Athletes

athletic equipmentJoin the Community Coalition for a Safe and Healthy Morris for this exciting event!

Join us to learn about best practices for reducing the use and misuse of prescription opioids among young athletes, as we introduce you to the TOP Toolkit, developed by the New Jersey Prevention Network (NJPN). The Toolkit will provide policy recommendations as well as educational materials and other resources to help reduce the risk factors that are leading to opiate use among this high risk population!

Date: December 5th, 2018
Time: 9:30am-12:00pm.
Location: 1 Medical Drive, Morris Plains – Human Services Conference Room

RSVP by Nov. 30 by calling 973-625-1998.

This event is open to School Administrators, School Nurses, Coaches, Athletic Directors, Parents, and the community-at-large.

Back to School Toolkit

From Mental Health America:

MHA’s Back to School Toolkit – developed each year and released in mid-August in anticipation of the start of the new school year – provides free resources, tools, tips, and information on early identification themes and Before Stage 4 messaging.

MHA’s 2018 Back to School Toolkit will provide young people with information to help them understand the effects trauma can have on the mind and how traumatic events may trigger the onset of mental health conditions like depression, anxiety, and psychosis. By increasing understanding of trauma and recognition of early warning signs of mental health conditions, we hope to encourage young people to seek help and support as soon as possible so that they can address issues Before Stage 4.

Download the toolkit here!

For more information, visit http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/back-school.