Wednesday, October 25th, 2017

Township Stigma-Free Initiative as the First Countywide Stigma-Free Conference is Set for Nov. 1 — Focus on Mental Illness and Substance Use Disorders

The Mine Hill Township Council has passed a resolution to declare the township Stigma-Free, making the total 25 of the county’s 39 towns to join the Morris County “Stigma Free’’ initiative that aims to help eradicate the stigma associated with mental illness and substance abuse disorders.

Morris County Stigma Free logo

This grass roots initiative recognizes the high prevalence of mental illness and substance use disorders in our communities, and promotes re-education and understanding that can help lead to treatment and recovery – minus the stigma associated with these illnesses.

Those topics will be the focus of special FREE conference co-sponsored by the Morris County Board of Freeholders and Atlantic Health System, in collaboration with the Morris County Stigma-Free Community, to be held on Nov. 1  in Morristown. (Call 973.660.3183 to attend.)

Entitled “Removing the Stigma of Mental Illness and Addiction: Building Healthy Communities,’’ the event, which is open to the public, will be held at the Morristown Medical Center, part of Atlantic Health System, at 100 Madison Avenue, Morristown, from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Mine Hill is one of a majority of Morris County municipalities that have signed on as Stigma-Free communities, most of which will be represented at Wednesday’s conference.”

Mine Hills Signs on as Morris County's 25th Stigma-Free Town -- Nov. 1 Conference Set

Mine Hills Signs on as Morris County's 25th Stigma-Free Town -- Nov. 1 Conference Set Mine Hills Signs on as Morris County's 25th Stigma-Free Town -- Nov. 1 Conference Set

Mine Hill is happy to join this vital and important initiative,’’ said Mine Hill Mayor Sam Morris. “It’s important for people who are encountering a mental health or dependency issue to feel free from stigma and embarrassment.

“None of us would scorn someone who needs medical help with diabetes or a heart condition. It should be the same consideration for people with mental illness and dependency as well.”

Other Stigma-Free towns are Boonton, Boonton Township, Butler, Chatham Borough, Denville, Dover, East Hanover, Hanover, Jefferson, Long Hill, Madison, Mendham Borough, Montville, Morris Plains, Morristown, Morris Township, Mountain Lakes, Parsippany, Pequannock, Randolph, Rockaway Borough, Rockaway Township, Roxbury, and Washington Township, plus the Montville Township School District.

“This initiative is an important step in helping affected people seek recovery, without fear of stigma or reprisal,’’ said Morris County Freeholder Director Doug Cabana. “But it is only support shown for this Stigma-Free initiative by towns like Mine Hill, and their officials and residents, that can make this grass roots effort succeed.’’

Morris County has created a Stigma Free website 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.

photo of Freeholder Director Doug Cabana

Morris County Freeholder Director Douglas Cabana

The purpose of the Nov. 1 conference is to bring the Stigma-Free community together to help:

  • Create a non-judgmental environment where individuals with mental illness and addictions feel supported by their community and neighbors
  • Encourage people to seek treatment for these illnesses without fear of stigma
  • Provide prevention, treatment, & recovery resource information
  • Share ideas on stigma free activities — discuss successes and challenges
  • Understand what Atlantic Health System is doing to best assist and treat those who struggle with mental illness

Four guest speakers will provide different perspectives on the issue of dealing with addiction and mental illness, and the importance of a Stigma-Free approach:

  • Bob Davison, CEO of the Mental Health Association of Morris and Essex Counties;
  • Pamela Garanger of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill;
  • Melissa Kiritsis of Jefferson’s JT Connect;
  • James M. Gannon, Morris County Sheriff.

To learn more about the conference, visit:

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

Stigma is defined as a mark of disgrace which results from the judgment by others. When individuals are labeled by their illnesses, they experience judgment and prejudice. Stigma brings experiences and feelings of shame, embarrassment, distress, hopelessness and reluctance to seek or accept help.