ENGLEWOOD, N.J. – Englewood is working to give stigma the boot.
The town’s health department is asking local students to sign a pledge to stomp out the stigma around mental illness and substance use disorders when officials visited the Janis E. Dismus Middle School earlier this month.
“Englewood can expand but overall, including youth in the Stigma-Free Initiative is vital as their belief systems evolve with the knowledge,” Director of the Bergen County Department of Health Services Michele Hart-Loughlin said.
The event will be at Englewood Hospital and Medical Center on March 31 at 7 p.m.
The department also plans to bring the initiative to Dwight Morrow High School.
“Planting the seeds of youths’ awareness of the diseases of mental illness and substance use disorders will help them to recognize warning signs and encourage them to ask for help, just like they would do if they were suffering from an ear infection," Hart-Loughlin said. "The notion is to prevent stigma from ever forming.”
Englewood’s City Council passed a resolution in July of 2015 designating the city as a Stigma Free Community. The initiative is part of a larger program run by Bergen County’s Division of Mental Health.
The initiative has been really empowering for some students, Hart-Loughlin said. One student involved in the county’s program even hosted an awareness night in her district.
“Her energy is contagious and her focus on eliminating mental illness is inspiring,” Hart-Loughlin said.
Englewood’s Stigma Free task force, in collaboration the the Englewood Municipal Alliance, is planning a town hall meeting to discuss mental health.