PATERSON, NJ - The painful tragic death of a relative and a difficult divorce in short succession would challenge even the strongest individual, and Paterson resident Sharrieff Bugg was no different.

Yet, despite what he refers to as a “stigma” and the lack of available resources in urban areas, Bugg did reach out for help, and through extensive counseling was able to beat back his depression.

Now, through Growing in Grace, an organization he founded to bring awareness to mental health issues and to assist those in need access professionals, Bugg is helping others get the help he did.

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“A lot of the challenges we face in Paterson come from mental health issues,” Bugg said. “Unfortunately the stigma is still so high, and resources so lacking, that folks won’t or can’t address them.”

Young people are not immune to mental health challenges, and Bugg wants to take awareness to them. That’s why, he suggested, he has launched the first annual Passaic County Mental Health Film Festival.

Short films, documentaries and animated features will be accepted from high school and college students, as well as independent film producers, and first, second and third place films will be recognized in each category. The grand prize winner will receive  a $500 scholarship.

A free filming class will be held at International High School on Saturday, Jan. 6, and the deadline for film entry is March 16, 2018.