Hanover Park Regional Joins Stigma Free Initiative

Whippany Park and Hanover Park High Schools Join Countywide Effort to End Stigma Related to Mental Illness and Substance Use Disorders

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HANOVER TOWNSHIP — The Board of Education of the Hanover Park Regional High School District, which serves high school students from Florham Park, East Hanover and Hanover Township, has passed a Stigma-Free resolution, formally joining the countywide effort to eradicate the stigma associated with mental illness and substance use disorders.

Hanover Park Regional, which includes Whippany Park High School and Hanover Park High Schools, joins 35 Morris County towns, plus school districts, law enforcement, nonprofit agencies, hospitals, and faith-based groups in the Stigma-Free initiative.

“Hanover Park Regional High School District, a ‘National School District of Character,’ continues to support the Stigma-Free effort through its character education initiative and core values: Caring, Citizenship, Fairness, Respect, Responsibility, Trustworthiness,’’ said Hanover Park Regional Superintendent Carol Grossi.

“As we practice these values in our school communities, we are able to heighten everyone’s awareness in understanding others who struggle with substance abuse and mental health issues. We continue to support our students with the many challenges that confront them during their adolescent years by showing them how they can help themselves by helping others.”

The three-year-old grass roots Stigma-Free movement recognizes the high prevalence of mental illness and substance use disorders in our communities. It promotes re-education and understanding that can lead to treatment and recovery – minus the stigma associated with these illnesses.

Leaders of this initiative from across the county are now working with school districts and faith-based groups to become active participants, hosting a variety of programs, such as the upcoming “Breaking Stigma: Building a Strong Healthy Community’’ arts and music festival set for June 22 on the Morristown Green. For more information click here.

As part of the countywide initiative, residents are urged to take the Stigma Free Pledge by clicking here.

The Morris County Board of Freeholders in 2016 passed a resolution (joining several towns that had initiated the movement), designating Morris County as a Stigma-Free County and asked all of the county’s towns to consider enrolling.

Freeholder Kathy DeFillippo

“We are pleased that Hanover Park Regional has formally joined the Stigma-Free initiative,’’ said Morris County Freeholder Kathy DeFillippo, who has been the county governing board’s liaison to this effort.

“The students and staff at the two high schools already have been leaders in the Stigma-Free effort, and we look forward to their continuing energy and support in this initiative to help affected people seek recovery, without fear of stigma or reprisal,’’ she added.

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, schools, colleges and universities, and faith-based organizations.

Here are just a few of many voices in Morris County supporting the Stigma-Free Initiative:

Chester School District Superintendent Christina Van Woert: “We are extremely proud to be part of such a compassionate community and I think that is reflected in our desire to support all of our students, parents and community members by being a part of Stigma Free.’’

Montville School Superintendent Rene Rovtar: We feel it is important that students feel that if they are struggling with any mental health issues that they know that it is okay not to be okay, and that many resources are available to help them. We want all of our students and staff to know that the district stands ready to support them with no stigma attached.”

Pequannock Mayor Melissa Florance-Lynch. “In one way or another, everyone is affected by problems of mental illness and substance abuse and we want people to know the community is here to help.”

Brian Finestein, CEO of Saint Clare’s Behavioral Health Centers “One in four adults experiences a diagnosable mental illness every year and many of these individuals do not seek help because of fear of shame or judgment from friends, family and coworkers.’’
For information on the disease of mental illness, visit www.nami.org and for information on NAMI’s national Stigma Free effort click here.

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