The Morris County Stigma‐Free Communities Initiative is a county‐wide program which aims to eradicate the stigma associated with mental illness and substance use disorders. 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.
The Stigma Free Communities Initiative
Stigma‐Free Communities aim to inspire public interest and open dialogues about stigma. The County of Morris and several Morris County towns have already passed Stigma‐Free resolutions.
Establishing Stigma‐Free Communities will raise awareness of the local mental health and recovery resources available so that no resident needs to feel hopeless or alone. Stigma‐Free Communities will encourage residents to break down barriers and be mindful of their mental health and ask for help when needed. Substance use disorders and mental illness have the potential to worsen if left untreated and complications arise when individuals do not seek help. It is essential that residents engage in care as soon as the need is identified so recovery can begin, hope is inspired and tragedies are avoided.
What is stigma?
Stigma is 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. As a result, stigma is the primary reason individuals do not seek help when they experience symptoms of mental illness.
Who is involved?
Everyone is involved. This county‐wide initiative includes all Morris County residents, young and old. From bus drivers to school administrators, business owners to law enforcement, every community member is a key stakeholder. We want to link all stakeholders to training opportunities and awareness events aimed at increasing public knowledge about mental illness and substance use disorders and knowledge of local resources available to Morris County residents.
Prevalence of Mental Illness
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. 1 in 4 adults experience a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year (approximately 61.5 million Americans) and 1 in 17 adults live with a serious mental illness such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. Yet more than half will not seek treatment. Why?
The primary reason individuals 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. It is our goal 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.