By Carol McGough
In May 2011 the Hudson County affiliate of the National Alliance on Mental Illness joined with town officials to declare Hoboken, New Jersey stigma free. This first stigma free zone in the country sought to raise awareness of mental illness and to encourage people to seek help and treatment. In the intervening years, the entire state has embraced the stigma free initiative, including municipalities, schools, and houses of worship
In Bergen County, the most populous in the state, 69/70 municipalities have joined the initiative with proclamations, seminars, workshops and toolkits dedicated to advocacy and education.
The Codey Fund, founded by our former governor, has led the campaign, with funding for educational resources. In addition, the governor travels the state speaking to groups about mental health, with special emphasis on teenage suicide. A number of colleges and universities in the state are active in the stigma free movement as a result of the governor’s activism.
Through their pastoral care team, Central Unitarian Church in Paramus, New Jersey conducts stigma free activities, including interfaith roundtables and publishes the Stigma Free Zone (SFZ) News, founded by CUC member Cynthia Chazen. First Unitarian Society of Plainfield, Fanwood, NJ, hosted a task force with Bridgeway Rehabilitation Services and the city of Plainfield to declare the city stigma free in 2017. Members of the Plainfield congregation serve as stigma free zone ambassadors throughout the city.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION:
City of Plainfield stigma free website www.werstigma-free.org
To receive the Stigma Free Zone News, email firstname.lastname@example.org