News & Events

“Despite My Diagnosis…” Stigma Story by CCM Student Marco Mirlas

The Youngtown Edition (the school newspaper of the County College of Morris) is working with two other CCM clubs this semester, Active Minds and Writers Club, on a series about students in the process of recovery. This series is called “Despite My Diagnosis.” Read one of these stories, by Marco Mirlas:

Marco Mirlas holding up a whiteboard which says, Despite my diagnosis, I have the will to focus.
Marco Mirlas

My diagnosis of ADD, which… which president oversaw the end of the Korean War? Sorry, back on topic. If you couldn’t guess, ADD stands for Attention Deficit Disorder, a fairly common disorder that can be well summarized like this: all of those studies about the shrinking attention span of the modern man don’t come close to what it can be like for us. Sometimes. In fact, as demonstrated in the opening, I am constantly feeling the effects of the disorder, so I can hardly help but let my mind wander. To be clear to anyone who doesn’t recognize the term, it’s actually somewhat dated, at least to the 2000s, and has since been replaced by an equivalent classification of ADHD Inattentive Type.

It can be quite remarkable when I can handle it. If you’re afflicted by it, you may know what I’ll say next. You can be thinking effectively on several things at once, without compromising the task at hand, on a good day. Play a song in your head, think on your agenda for the day, and continue in a conversation without breaking a sweat. On the contrary, during a bad day, it can be difficult to accomplish much of value.

To further elaborate, for the longest time, it was difficult for me to concentrate well enough to do well in classes. But with age comes maturity (sometimes) and more importantly: willpower. It is true that it is difficult to defy one’s nature, but in this instance, it is necessary to try, if you’d rather not resort to medication. You should not see yourself as an irredeemable failure if you miss the mark sometimes, but instead, harden your resolve and learn from your mistakes. To that end, I’m leaving a shout out to the Learning Resource Center, and to the Tutoring Center.

Remember to focus, and above all, to not give up.

The CCM counseling center is located in the downstairs of the student community center in SCC 118 and is available to you as a student. The National Suicide Prevention Line can be reached at 1-800-273-8255.

Editor’s Note: If you are in the process of recovery we encourage you to join the members of Active Minds, Writers Club and the Youngtown Edition to become more than your diagnosis and to share your story, contact youngtownedition@gmail.com to find out how.

Chester School District Joins Morris County Stigma-Free Initiative

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.”

 For information on the disease of mental illness, visit www.nami.org and for information on NAMI’s national Stigma Free effort, visit: https://www.nami.org/stigmafree

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.

Award-Winning Stigma-Free Essays Shared

Boonton, Long Hill, and Montville Students Honored at March 8 Event

Students from Boonton, Long Hill, and Montville were honored for their winning essays in the countywide Stigma-Free essay contest run by the Montville and Boonton United Methodist Churches, which are members of the countywide Stigma-Free Initiative.

Stigma-Free Essay Winners
Samia Shivon of Boonton; Melody Hart of Gillette, Pastor Donald Kirschner, Skylar Loper of Boonton, and Esme Lockwood from Montville. Photo courtesy of TAPinto Montville

Winners of the contest are:

  • Junior High Winner: Melody Hart, Homeschooled, Long Hill (Gillette), Grade 8;
  • High School Winner for Primary Essay: Samia Shivon, Boonton High School, Grade 11;
  • High School Winner: Esme Lockwood, Montville High School, Grade 11.

The contest was an initiative of Donald Kirschner, pastor of both the Montville United Methodist Church and Boonton United Methodist Church, and whose congregations sponsored the prize awards.

Junior High Winner: Melody Hart

The word ‘stigma’ is a Latin word meaning “a mark made on skin by burning with a hot iron.” In our society, it refers to the prejudice that results from the labels we put on people who have some undesirable condition, such as mental illness. More often than not, it becomes a building block for a jail cell that eventually imprisons the one who is inflicted. I will focus on my experience with my grandfather, the effects of stigma in his life, and how awareness can cause a positive change.

High School Essay Winner: Samia Shivon

Stigma is the disapproval and discrimination against a person based on perceivable social characteristics that serve to distinguish them from other embers of a society. When it involves mental illness, someone views a person in a negative way because they have a mental health condition. Some people describe stigma as a feeling of shame or judgment from others. It can even come from an internal place, where people feel embarrassed or ashamed for the illness they possess. It is very important to be stigma-free.

High School Project Winner: Esme Lockwood

I would like to create a drug-free initiative in schools, primarily in New Jersey, called the ‘No More’ project, rather than “say no to drugs” which ignites the ignorance of choice versus illness. Fundamentally, ‘No More’ represents the gradual abolishment of specifically, heroin, and the perpetrators who make money off of their victims. In this project, I would like to recruit members who are or know someone battling heroin addiction.

Read all of the winning essays and project proposals. Congratulations to all who entered!

Knock Out Opioid Abuse Summit on the State and Federal Response to the Opioid Epidemic

From New Jersey’s Knock Out Opioid Abuse initiative:

Knock Out Opioid AbuseMore than 3,000 people died from drug overdoses in New Jersey in 2018, a majority of which were opioid-related. Nationwide, more than 47,000 people died of opioid overdoses in 2017. There has been progress in the fight against the opioid epidemic, but far too many lives are being lost every day to this crisis.

At the Knock Out Opioid Abuse Summit on the State and Federal Response to the Opioid Epidemic, state and federal officials will discuss resources available to local communities to address the opioid epidemic at the community level. The event will be held from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 27 at The Newark Museum, 49 Washington St. Newark, NJ.

The statewide conference will serve as the first event of the continuation of the Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey and The Horizon Foundation for New Jersey’s Knock Out Opioid Abuse initiative, a two-year initiative focusing on addressing the opioid epidemic through town halls, prescriber education, parent education and a statewide media campaign to increase awareness of the crisis.

Speakers will include representatives from the Drug Enforcement Administration, United States Attorney’s Office, White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, New Jersey Office of the Attorney General and other agencies.

To learn more about the Knock Out Opioid Abuse Summit on the State and Federal Response to the Opioid Epidemic and to register to attend, visit knockoutopioidabuse.drugfreenj.org/summit. Seating is limited and registration is required. Please share this message with individuals or organizations interested in attending.

Read more on the KOOA website.

Get the Latest News from MHA of Essex and Morris

Want to learn more about mental health and stigma-free outreach in your area? Turn to the Mental Health Association of Essex and Morris!

MHA logo

Sign up for their newsletter (scroll to the footer of their website to find the signup form) to get monthly updates. Their latest newsletter includes stories about county-owned residences for women at risk of homelessness, a grant awarded by the Healthcare Foundation of NJ for a new medical-legal partnership with MHA, and Project Homeless Connect.

For more immediate updates, check out the MHA news page, featuring information from the MHA community.

For more information about the MHA, call MHA Morris at 973-334-3496.

“Despite My Diagnosis…” Stigma Story by CCM Student Raven Resch

The Youngtown Edition (the school newspaper of the County College of Morris) is working with two other CCM clubs this semester, Active Minds and Writers Club, on a series about students in the process of recovery. This series is called “Despite My Diagnosis.” Read one of these stories, by Raven Resch:

Raven Resch holding up a sign that says "Despite my diagnosis, today I am happy."
Raven Resch

Despite my diagnosis, today I am happy, but I couldn’t always say that. I’ve had days of darkness where my own mind was destroying me from the inside out.

I had learned that there was no place more frightening than the places my own mind can take me. I felt hopeless and helpless; there was a monster inside of me, torturing me. I felt guilt and shame. How could someone with a 2-year-old son and a rather normal life feel this way? But my life was not always normal, I ran from my past, but it finally caught up to me.

You can’t run from undiagnosed post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety disorder, depression and OCD. You can’t run, it will always catch up with you. I could no longer run from the thoughts that were destroying me, my mind was so loud that even my own screams couldn’t block out the noise. I wanted nothing more than to die, but I know personally how suicide can affect a family. My only way of giving up, was giving in.

I took myself to the emergency room and gave into whatever they wanted me to do. At this point I did not want recovery for me, I still wanted to die, but for my family I knew I had to do something. I was transported to the psychiatric hospital and from there to an acute partial hospitalization program, and it was there in that program where I got my life back.

I was no longer just living, I felt like I was actually alive, a feeling I hadn’t felt for years. At the exact point where I felt I was giving up on life, I was actually accepting recovery.

Today, because I accepted help I can say that I am happy. There is no doubt that some days are still hard but there are no days that are not worth all the lessons I am learning. I am turning my days of torture into days of success. I finally know what I want in life and that is to help people who are feeling exactly the way I felt. To let them know that there is hope even when you can’t see it, to speak out against the mental health stigma, and to end the silence that is slowing killing us inside.

If you are struggling, please know there is help. Some resources you can utilize are the National Suicide Prevention Line at 1-800-273-8255, the Crisis Text Line if you text HOME to 741741, and the Counseling Center in the Student Community Center, Room 118.

Editor’s Note: If you are in the process of recovery we encourage you to join the members of Active Minds, Writers Club and the Youngtown Edition to become more than your diagnosis and to share your story, contact youngtownedition@gmail.com to find out how.

“Despite My Diagnosis…” Stigma Story by CCM Student Rachel Eckert

The Youngtown Edition (the school newspaper of the County College of Morris) is working with two other CCM clubs this semester, Active Minds and Writers Club, on a series about students in the process of recovery. This series is called “Despite My Diagnosis.” Read one of these stories, by Rachel Eckert:

Hope.

Hold on, pain ends.

Rachel Eckert holding a dry erase board saying 'Hold on, pain ends.'
Rachel Eckert

I hear this phrase over and over again. Whether it be by professionals or friends, everybody tells me that. I knew it was true. In theory, anyway. But I always had such a hard time seeing that and understanding that. I didn’t understand how the anguish I had felt for so many years could ever end. Even if I only temporarily felt better, it was better than where I was. I never expected to magically get better. Because that isn’t how it happens. You don’t wake up one day and tell yourself “I’m not depressed anymore” and go on your merry way. I know, however, that is how some people think. It doesn’t go away overnight, that sadness deep in your belly. I knew that much, but never thought about what came next. In the past few months, I have learned that when you are so sad and hurt all of the time, a slight improvement feels miles better than where you came from. Unfortunately, that slight improvement also feels like you crawled a mile to get there.

I was at rock bottom. No, I was lower than rock bottom. I was in rock bottoms basement. It’s a place I never realized existed until my rock bottom somehow turned even lower. The depression and anxiety were getting the best of me. I felt awful all of the time. But I am not asking for your pity. That’s not where I am anymore. When you’re in rock bottoms basement, you can’t get any lower. And for that I was thankful.

One morning, I decided to take recovery head on. I had plenty of setbacks and I didn’t feel better immediately. In fact, I almost felt worse because of the fact that I didn’t feel better. It took me months to get where I am now. To some, where I am is still so low. But for me, this is the best I have ever felt.

Hold on, pain ends. Maybe not right now. Maybe not in three months. The way you feel won’t be the same. I am still depressed and I am anxious, but it does not pain me to be alive. It does not pain me to get out of bed every morning. You may never feel 100%, but the way you feel now cannot stay this way forever. So when you are sad and want to give up, have hope. Hold on, pain ends.

If you are struggling, please know there is help. Some resources you can utilize are the National Suicide Prevention Line at 1-800-273-8255, the Crisis Text Line if you text HOME to 741741, and the Counseling Center in the Student Community Center, Room 118.

Editor’s Note: If you are in the process of recovery we encourage you to join the members of Active Minds, Writers Club and the Youngtown Edition to become more than your diagnosis and to share your story, contact youngtownedition@gmail.com to find out how.

New Jersey Youth Can Spread Vital Prevention Messages

From The Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey:

A new report from the National Safety Council reveals that, for the first time in history, Americans are more likely to die from an opioid overdose than in a motor vehicle accident.

This startling statistic once again shows the dire need to educate youth about the dangers of drug use and spread awareness throughout the nation.

New Jersey teenagers will have the opportunity to step up and spread vitally important prevention messages this spring as part of the New Jersey Shout Down Drugs high school music competition.

Since the program’s inception in 2005, New Jersey Shout Down Drugs has challenged high school students to create original music with lyrics that contain powerful peer-to-peer substance use prevention messages. The deadline for New Jersey high school students to submit their original songs is Friday, February 1.

Judges will select a finalist from every county as well as wild card finalists to compete in the Annual Prevention Concert, which will be held at Rutgers University’s Victoria J. Mastrobuono Theater on Friday, May 10th. Three winners of the competition will be announced at the end of the concert. First place will receive a $5,000 music contract with the Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey. Second-place will receive a $3,000 contract and the third-place finisher will earn a $2,000 contract.

How Morris County puts a bull’s-eye on New Jersey’s drug epidemic

From NJTV:

Two years ago, Morris County launched its Narcan 2.0 program. It offers recovery coaches through treatment for those on the brink of death but revived with naloxone. [Prosecutor Frederic] Knapp says 60 percent of those offered help accept it.

“Hopefully we’re doing the right thing, but seeing these numbers go up despite our efforts is really horrific. But it doesn’t dissuade us. In fact, it convinces us to work harder,” Knapp said.


Read the full article, How Morris County puts a bull’s-eye on New Jersey’s drug epidemic.

2019 New Jersey Shout Down Drugs

New Jersey Shout Down Drugs logoNew Jersey high school students – is music your life? Do you know how drugs destroy lives? Be a part of New Jersey Shout Down Drugs and let the whole state hear your voice! Submit your song and compete for over $10,000 in prizes!

Created in 2005, New Jersey Shout Down Drugs challenges high school students to create original music and lyrics with powerful substance abuse prevention messages to allow teens to deliver the prevention message to each other through their favorite medium of music. County Finalists are chosen by peer judges to perform their original songs at the Annual Statewide Prevention Concert, held in May, at a state-of-the-art venue.

First, second and third place winners are chosen by a panel of judges that night to receive music contracts worth $5,000, $3,000 and $2,000 respectively to perform their winning songs at different events throughout the state during the year.

Learn more and apply at http://www.shoutdowndrugs.com.