One in four adults experience a mental-disorder in a given year, yet more than half will not seek treatment. The main reasons cited are shame and fear of judgement from friends, family, and co-workers. Many children also experience mental illness, and going back to school can be a source of anxiety that parents need to monitor, especially this time of year.
A coalition of concerned citizens, Christian Health Care Center (CHCC), local government, and school officials of Wyckoff have found common ground on this topic. It’s time to put an end to the stigmatization of mental illness. Mental illness affects almost every family in America, and people suffering from mental illness can and do recover and live productive lives.
Earlier this year, Wyckoff Mayor Kevin Rooney declared Wyckoff a stigma-free zone, making a commitment to the Wyckoff community to support training, education, and dialogue about mental illness. By educating our community and breaking down barriers we open minds and access to the care that so many need.
“”There are many stigmas in our society,” said Mayor Rooney. “Stigmas can create many barriers, whether mental illness, social discrimination, drug or alcohol addiction. It can lead to narrow-mindedness.”
Mayor Rooney made a resolution proclaiming Wyckoff as a stigma-free zone, citing that one in 17 adults live with a serious mental illness and approximately 20 percent of youth ages 13 to 18 experience severe mental disorders in a given year. Establishing stigma-free zones will raise awareness of resources and encourage residents to engage in care as soon as the need is identified so recovery can begin, hope is inspired and tragedies are avoided.
The members of the Wyckoff Stigma-Free Task Force are Cathy Pilone, MSN, RN, NEA-BC, Vice President/Administrator of Mental Health Services at CHCC in Wyckoff; Wendy Coffey, MSW, LCSW, who is currently a family therapist treating a wide range of mental-health issues; and Nancy Drabik, LDT/C, a retired educator and administrator with more than 45 years of experience with children and young adults, former mayor of Wyckoff, and closely involved with Care Plus NJ, whose mission is to decrease the stigma of mental illness.
CHCC is pleased to be part of this initiative and recently donated $5,000 to support this very important cause.
“It is very appropriate that CHCC is part of this initiative given that it was founded in 1911 with the purpose of changing the delivery of care for people facing mental and emotional challenges,” said Douglas A. Struyk, CPA, LNHA, CHCC President and CEO.
Fourteen deacons from the Reformed tradition vowed to offer compassionate, loving care guided by Christian principles. Their unwavering commitment led to the renovation of a farmhouse on Goffle Hill, creating New Jersey’s first private psychiatric hospital. From those beginnings, CHCC has grown to offer the area’s most complete continuum of senior-life, short-term rehab, and mental-health services available on one campus.
“Eliminating the stigma associated with mental illness is essential,” said Ms. Pilone. “We must strive to make services available to all those affected by mental illness and ensure that individuals feel comfortable asking for help. We will know we have arrived when seeking treatment for a mental illness is perceived no differently than seeking treatment for diabetes.”
Several other communities in Bergen County have also declared stigma-free zones, and there is a county-wide Stigma-Free Campaign. The more people who support the concept of stigma-free zones, the better chance we have to eliminate the stigma connected with mental illness.
For more information about the Stigma-Free Campaign, visit wyckoffstigmafree.org.