Posted Tuesday, June 21st, 2016


The Board of Freeholders has declared that Morris County is a “Stigma Free’’ community, and has asked all of the county’s 39 towns to join in the countywide effort to help eradicate the stigma associated with mental illness and substance abuse disorders.


The county’s Department of Human Services has created a new Stigma Free website to call attention to the initiative and to help direct people suffering from those illnesses and additions to available help and services. A new Stigma Free “toolbox’’ will be created on the website in the near future.

“We 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,’’ said Morris County Human Services Director Jennifer Carpinteri.

“Stigma is a barrier to wellness and recovery, and it limits a recovering person’s full social integration and return to a full and normal life,’’ added Morris County Mental Health Administrator Laurie Becker.

The Freeholders this spring unanimously passed a resolution supporting the designation of Morris County as a Stigma-Free Community.

Hank Lyon

Hank Lyon

“Stigma-Free Communities aim to inspire public interest and open dialogue about stigma, raise awareness of mental health and substance use disorders and to create a culture in which residents with mental health and substance use disorders feel supported by their community and neighbors, and free to seek treatment without fear of stigma,’’ said Deputy Freeholder Director Hank Lyon, at last week’s 22nd annual Human Services forum.

The World Health Organization ranks mental health conditions, including alcohol and substance use disorders, as the leading cause of disability in the United States and Canada, affecting people of all ages and backgrounds.

One in four adults experience a diagnosable mental disorder each year and one in 17 adults live with a serious mental illness, such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. Yet more than half will not seek or accept help.

The reason may be that despite its prevalence in our society, mental health still has stigma attached to it.

Stigma 2

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.

Former New Jersey Governor Richard Codey’s Task Force on Mental Health Final Report found that “Stigma deters people from seeking help for fear that their confidentiality will be breached. It gives insurers, public and private, tacit permission to restrict coverage for mental illnesses in ways that would not be tolerated for other illnesses.’’

Morris County’s goal in creating a Stigma Free campaign 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 from disease, said Becker.

As part of the county’s campaign, residents are urged to make 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.

For more information on the county’s Stigma Free campaign, please visit:

For more information on the disease of mental illness, visit and for more information on NAMI’s national Stigma Free effort, visit: