CHATHAM, NJ - Chatham Township became the 26th Morris County community to pass a resolution declaring the town to be  "Stigma-Free" at its last regular meeting of the Chatham Township Committee.

The initiative aims to remove the stigma associated with mental illness and substance abuse disorders.

"We are proud to join with other Morris County towns in declaring ourselves a stigma-free community," Karen Swartz, Chatham Township Deputy Mayor, said. "There is no substitute for communication, understanding, and education when it comes to coping with mental illness and substance abuse.

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"But more than anything, it is not just talking the talk but walking the walk. As important as it is to have resources of the township behind a resolution such as this, each one of us has the responsibility to lend a hand to support one another, and our many initiatives, including Mayor (Curt) Ritter's suicide awareness program."

This grassroots initiative recognizes the high prevalence of mental illness and substance use disorders in our communities and promotes re-education and understanding that can help lead to treatment and recovery – minus the stigma associated with these illnesses.

“Stigma-Free communities aim to inspire public interest and open dialogues about stigma, raise awareness of the disease of mental illness and create a culture wherein residents feel supported by their communities and neighbors and feel free to seek treatment for their disease with fear of stigma,’’ states the Chatham Township resolution.

Chatham Township joins other Stigma Free communities in Morris County: Boonton, Boonton Township, Butler, Chatham Borough, Denville, Dover, East Hanover, Hanover, Jefferson, Long Hill, Madison, Mendham Borough, Mine Hill, Montville, Morris Plains, Morristown, Morris Township, Mountain Lakes, Parsippany, Pequannock, Randolph, Rockaway Borough, Rockaway Township Roxbury, and Washington Township, plus the Montville Township School District.

“This initiative is an important step in helping affected people seek recovery, without fear of stigma or reprisal,’’ Morris County Freeholder Director Doug Cabana said. “But it is only support shown for this Stigma-Free initiative by towns like Chatham Township, and their officials and residents, that can make this grassroots effort succeed.’’

Morris County has created a Stigma Free website www.morriscountystigmafree.org to call attention to the initiative, provide information and resources, and a calendar of upcoming events related to mental illness and substance abuse. A Stigma Free Toolkit also is available for towns and communities.

For information on the disease of mental illness, visit www.nami.org and for information
on NAMI’s national Stigma Free effort, visit: https://www.nami.org/stigmafree

Stigma is defined as a mark of disgrace which results from the judgment by others. When individuals are labeled by their illnesses, they experience judgment and prejudice. Stigma brings experiences and feelings of shame, embarrassment, distress, hopelessness, and reluctance to seek or accept help.