PLAINFIELD, NJ - At their most recent meeting, members of the Plainfield City Council agreed to move a resolution to designate the City of Plainfield as a Stigma-Free Zone to the March 13th agenda.

The resolution, brought forth by Cory Storch, Councilman for the 2nd Ward, would designate Plainfield a Stigma-Free Zone to create an environment in which residents will feel free to seek treatment for the disease of mental illness without the fear of being stigmatized.

The reduction of mental health stigma will create an atmosphere of compassionate care, where residents feel comfortable seeking the resources they need without the fear of embarrassment or judgment.

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Here, Storch introduces the Stigma-Free resolution to the City Council:

In addition to serving the residents of Plainfield as a Councilman, Mr. Storch serves the members of the community who experience mental illness as CEO of Bridgeway Rehabilitation Services. He hopes to raise awareness of the disease of mental illness, provide an effective way to reduce the stigma associated with it, and encourage those who are affected to seek services and feel supported.

Storch began the journey towards becoming a Stigma-Free Zone by creating the Bridgeway-Plainfield Stigma-Free Zone Campaign, led by a steering committee of ambassadors from the community who represent key organizations, including the First Unitarian Society of Plainfield, Ruach Outreach Ministries, United Church of Christ Congregational, Union County Alliance, and Union County Mental Health Board.  TAPinto Plainfield is also an ambassador for this initiative.

Mark Williams, the Stigma-Free Zone ambassador for the First Unitarian Society of Plainfield, addressed the Plainfield City Council on March 6th, noting:

  • FACT: 20% of youth ages 13 to 18 live with a mental health condition
  • FACT: 11% of our children suffer from serious depression
  • FACT: 10% of our children have behavior or conduct disorders that leave them with labels that become barriers to a meaningful educational experience.
  • FACT: 8% of youth have an anxiety disorder.

Stigma-Free Zone Steering Committee members will disseminate important information that will raise awareness of the myths of mental illness, and educate the public with accurate information.

Storch explains “Psychiatric problems affect one in five people.  When you count the impact on their families, employers, teachers and friends, it becomes clear that everyone is touched by mental illness in one way or another.” There are many myths that cause fear and shame about conditions like depression, phobias, bi-polar disorder, and schizophrenia.  The fear leads to discrimination.  The shame is the leading reason people do not seek help for their psychiatric problems.  

“The real shame”, says Storch, “ is while treatments have been proven effective, untreated mental illness causes huge negative impacts in our community - on families, on businesses, on the many people struggling with these conditions. We can, and should, work to eliminate stigma associated with mental illness altogether so no one feels hopeless or alone; so people will seek help. That’s when recovery begins.”

If the resolution passes on March 13th, Plainfield will take its first steps towards reducing the stigma associated with mental illness within the city.

The Plainfield Steering Committee wishes to thank Bridgeway and the Plainfield Foundation for providing seed funding to underwrite the production and dissemination of educational materials and signage supporting the Stigma-Free Zone in Plainfield.

For more information about the Bridgeway-Plainfield Stigma-Free Zone Campaign, visit www.werstigma-free.org or email stigmafree2@gmail.com.