May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and Stigma-Free Zones are sprouting up in lime green throughout Bergen County to support the county-wide Stigma-Free Initiative. In an effort to spread more awareness, Care Plus NJ, Inc. (“CarePlus”) has launched the STIGMA campaign with a goal of creating a better understanding of what is happening in local communities, and to help people better understand what stigma is.
Even though one in four adults experience mental health challenges annually, many people do not understand mental illness or know how to seek help when it is needed. Some of the issues include depression, anxiety and substance use, which have become commonplace in modern society. However, a lot of times these issues can escalate into serious problems and people are often too ashamed to talk about it. The organization is looking to help people to understand that by trying to hide the struggle, it can actually become worse.
The campaign advisement uses the acronym STIGMA as an easy way to share what the words means, and as a means to educate people on how public perception affects the experience of those who live with mental illness. The acronym outlines the following challenges:
S – Stops individuals from getting the help they need.
T – Teaches people negative belief systems.
I – Isolates people, creating social barriers.
G – Gives people feelings of shame, embarrassment, and hopelessness.
M – Marks individuals based on condition, behavior or appearance.
A – Alienates people who need our help and support.
“We decided to use this year’s campaign to define the word,” said Caryl Felicetta, Marketing Director at CarePlus. “Since the Stigma-Free Initiative has been picking up so much momentum locally, it’s important that people understand what it means and to effectively to put an end to stigma.”
The idea is that by sharing these challenges with the public, people can recognize that their biases and behaviors toward others may be contributing to the barriers that stigma creates. The goal is that people will become more mindful of their actions, let others know that they are not alone in their struggle and encourage them to get the help that they need. This also serves as a reminder that mental illness should be seen in the same light as physical illness.
The campaign also brings a message of hope that help is available, not only in the form of programs and services, but also in the form of community education and advocacy for those living with mental illness.
The STIGMA flyer has more detail and is suitable as a handout or to hang on walls for easy reference in offices, schools, or dorm rooms.
As more people learn to recognize that mental health is just as important as physical health, more people are likely to get help. This is not just a message for Mental Health Awareness Month; it’s a message that needs to be shared and embraced every day. Please be sure to share this campaign on your social networks. It’s an important message and can help improve or save someone’s life.
CarePlus is a northern New Jersey integrated mental health care organization that offers a wide variety of mental health care services for all ages. If you have questions or would simply like to schedule a visit, call (201) 986-5000.
If you are a resident of Bergen County, New Jersey and in immediate crisis, call (201) 262-HELP (4357). This hotline is available 24-hours a day, 7 days a week to help you.