BERNARDS TWP., NJ - Mental health, a subject that has received much discussion on both a local -- and national -- level will be addressed at "Pathways to Mental Health: A Community Resource Fair," which will address many aspects of mental health and wellness on Thursday evening at the Bernards Township Library.

The Bernards Township Municipal Alliance Against Substance Abuse and the Bernards Township Health Department will jointly host the fair from 6 to 8 p.m. on March 22 at the library, 32 S. Maple Ave., Basking Ridge.

“Pathways to Mental Health” is a community health fair that is focused on providing the residents of Bernards Township and surrounding community with comprehensive mental health information.

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Organizations to be present include: the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, High Focus Centers, Anew Wellnes, GenPsych, Catholic Charities, Richard Hall Community Mental Health Center, Safe + Sound Somerset, and Bernards Parents for Exceptional Children will have tables at the fair with information and representatives on hand to answer questions. 

In February, the Bernards Board of Education heard a presentation on "Trends in Mental Health." The school board, school officials and parents have for the past few years been discussing ways to address "student stressors" that cause anxiety in students.

“The stigma of mental health in this country should be addressed and how it affects individuals, families, and communities,” said Ellen Houlihan, a member of the New Jersey Chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. “The culture needs to change and make it okay to speak about mental health and suicide. We need to view mental health as much as we view physical health."

Students, parents and community members invited to free program

This program is intended for students, parents, and community members in Bernards Township as well as surrounding towns and is free for all participants. Students attending the fair will be able to earn an hour of community service from the Bernards Township Municipal Alliance Against Substance Abuse.

Doors will open at 6 p.m. and the fair will run until 8 p.m. Information from all the organizations attending will be available after the program. Any questions should be directed to Kaitlin Cartoccio, Health Educator and Municipal Alliance Grant Coordinator at 908-204-2523 or kcartoccio@bernards.org. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, mental health is “a state of well being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.”

A mental illness is defined as “health conditions that are characterized by alterations in thinking, mood, or behavior associated with distress and/or impaired functioning," according to a release from the municipal alliance. The release said itis estimated that 1 in 5 adults in America experience a mental illness, 10.2 million adults have co-occuring mental health and addiction disorders, and 20% of adolescents aged 13-18 live with a mental health condition. The release quoted an estimate that only about 17% of U.S adults are considered to be in a state of optimal mental health.

The stated mission of the Bernards Township Municipal Alliance Against Substance Abuse is to provide consultation, programs, training and resources to members of the Bernards Township community with the goal of preventing and reducing the use of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs through education, support of events and programs and presence in the community. For more information and to view results from the Student Stressors or American Drug and Alcohol Survey, visit www.bernardsalliance.org.