Mountain Lakes, Roxbury and Washington Township have joined the Morris County “Stigma Free’’ initiative, and the Mendham Borough Council is expected to approve a resolution on Thursday to make Mendham the 18th town in Morris County to join the countywide effort to help eradicate the stigma associated with mental illness and substance abuse disorders.
In addition, Saint Clare’s Health held a major Stigma-Free Celebration last week to mark its “commitment to end discrimination and negative attitudes towards mental health conditions and substance abuse disorders.’’ Check out the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VRLBTCaAX_g
Also, the town of Sparta in Susex County has joined the initiative as the first Sussex County town to do so.
In Morris County, Mendham, Mountain Lakes, Roxbury, Washington Township join the town of Boonton, Boonton Township, Denville, Dover, East Hanover, Hanover, Jefferson, Long Hill, Madison, Morris Plains, Morris Township, Parsippany, Rockaway Borough and Rockaway Township as Stigma Free communities in Morris County.
“I am pleased the township has taken this step to become Stigma-Free, and that we are part of an ever- growing group of police agencies and towns in Morris County that support this initiative,’’ said Washington Township Police Chief Jeff Almer. “With this program, we can continue to teach people about mental illness and substance abuse disorders, and erase the stigma attached to them.
“This will make residents, as well as the police officers, more aware of the illnesses and work to create an environment where we can assist with wellness and recovery by providing needed support and resources.’’
“One in four adults experiences a diagnosable mental illness every year and many of these individuals do not seek help because of fear of shame or judgment from friends, family and coworkers,” said Brian Finestein, chief executive officer of Denville Hospital and Saint Clare’s Behavioral Health centers. “As one of the state’s leading providers of behavioral health services, it is our responsibility to help spur this stigma-free movement forward.”
The Morris County Board of Freeholders in 2016 passed a resolution designating Morris County as a Stigma-Free County and asked the county’s 39 towns to consider enrolling.
Morris County has created 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.
Morris County’s goal in creating a 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.
“We are really heartened by the support shown for this Stigma-Free initiative by so many towns and health providers and agencies, and our county residents,’’ said Morris County Freeholder Director Doug Cabana. “This initiative is an important step in helping affected people seek recovery, without fear of stigma or reprisal.’’
These additions to the Stigma-Free community occur as the Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey’s “Knock Out Opioid Abuse’’ Town Hall series comes to Morris County tomorrow night (Wednesday, May 17) at the Morris County Public Safety Training Academy in Parsippany. It will give county residents a chance to join an informal conversation on the national epidemic. The event will take place from 6 to 8 p.m.
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.