Mental illness is a treatable illness, yet it continues to unfairly carry a stigma that causes shame and stops people from seeking help. Of the nearly 44 million Americans with mental illness, an estimated 17.6 million go untreated. 

We don’t discriminate against people who have cancer or heart disease, and we shouldn’t discriminate against people with mental illness,’’ said Mary Vineis, NewBridge Services’ director of Community Response and Education.

The toll of mental illness is devastating:

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  • Individuals living with serious mental illness are more likely to have chronic medical conditions, and their life expectancy is 25 years shorter than that of the general population.
  • The U.S. suicide rate is at a 30-year high. Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the U.S., and the second-leading cause of teenagers and young adults ages 15 to 24.
  • One quarter of adults staying in homeless shelters live with serious mental illness; one in five adults in state and local jails have had a mental health condition.
  • The National Institute of Mental Health estimates the cost of mental disorders at $467 billion a year.

Vineis recommends these tips to reduce stigma:

  • Educate yourself
  • See the person, not the illness
  • Push for legislation and policies that improve access to treatment
  • Take the National Alliance on Mental Illness’ Stigma-Free Pledge
  • Urge your community to become a Stigma-Free Zone

NewBridge offers Mental Health First Aid training to teach the public how to respond to a mental health crisis. Participants in the 8-hour training learn to identify, understand and respond to signs of mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety disorders, trauma and psychosis, as well as substance abuse. More than 700,000 people nationwide have taken MHFA training, and the goal is for more than 1 million people to become MHFA responders.

Morris County is Stigma-Free Community, and the county Department of Human Services has created a Stigma-Free website that provides information to the public and resources to anyone dealing with mental illness. Visit http://morriscountynj.gov/hs/stigma-free/.

Thursday is National Depression Screening Day. Learn the signs of depression and take an anonymous screening at https://mentalhealthscreening.org/programs/ndsd or http://helpyourselfhelpothers.org.

If you or someone you know struggles with mental illness, contact NewBridge Services at (973) 316-9333 or services@newbridge.org.

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About NewBridge

NewBridge Services, a 501c(3) nonprofit, is a premier provider of counseling services, housing and educational programs in northern New Jersey serving more than 8,500 children, adults and seniors each year. NewBridge treats mental illnesses and addictions; teaches skills for coping with stress, grief and challenging relationships; builds and manages affordable housing; offers school-based programs that teach children and adolescents resiliency skills for healthy emotional development; helps young adults succeed in their education and prepare for careers; and supports seniors so they can remain independent. Throughout its more than 50-year history, NewBridge has remained true to its mission of bringing balance to people’s lives by tracking shifts in communities’ needs and providing innovative, effective programs to meet them.