Stigma-Free Morris County

Morris County Proud to be Stigma-Free logoIntroduction

The Morris County Stigma-Free Communities Initiative is a county-wide program which aims to eradicate the stigma associated with mental illness and substance use disorders. We are dedicated to raising awareness of these illnesses by creating an environment where affected individuals are supported in their efforts to achieve wellness and recovery.

The Morris County Freeholders passed a resolution supporting the designation of Morris County as a Stigma-Free Community on April 27, 2016.

The Center for Addiction Recovery, Education and Success (CARES) is seeking individuals to become part of the Morris County Addiction Recovery Response Team (ARRT). Members of the ARRT will provide peer recovery support, in the hospital Emergency Departments, to individuals reversed from an opiate overdose as well as follow-up for a minimum of 60 days. Team members will have a passion for helping others and be in recovery from addiction themselves. Additional requirements include a valid driver’s license, transportation, and the ability to be on call for 12 hour shifts at least once a week. Members of the ARRT will participate in a 46-hour training for Peer Recovery Specialists.

Anyone interested in becoming part of the team please contact Nicola Inniss by e-mail [email protected] or call 973-625-1143.

Here’s the Story: A Family Disease
When she was 19, Alicia Cook lost her cousin Jessica, of Morris County, to a heroin overdose. Before she died, Jessica, fearing she wouldn’t make it out alive, asked Alicia to write about the disease of addiction and the epidemic of heroin abuse. Jessica’s story and the accounts of those who share her journey will be told on Here’s The Story: A Family Disease. Produced by Driving Jersey. It includes the remembrances of Jessica’s dad, Bob Cook (who has long worked for Morris County) and who has made an annual trip to Jessica’s high school, Morris Knolls, to tell them about his daughter, her life, and her death.

What is a Mental Illness?

Mental illnesses refer to disorders generally characterized by dysregulation of  of mood, thought, and/or behavior. Mental illness encompasses a variety of disorders ranging from depression and anxiety to substance and alcohol use disorder and bipolar disorder. Mental illnesses can affect persons of any age, race, religion or income.

No Health Without Mental Health ribbon

Prevalence of Mental Illness

The World Health Organization ranks mental health conditions, including alcohol and substance use disorders, as the leading cause of disability in the United States and Canada, affecting people of all ages and backgrounds. 1 in 4 adults experience a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year (approximately 61.5 million Americans) and 1 in 17 adults live with a serious mental illness such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. Yet more than half will not seek treatment. Why?

Despite its prevalence in our society, mental health still has stigma attached to it.

What is Stigma?

Stigma is a mark of disgrace which results from the judgment by others. When an individual is 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.

The primary reason individuals fail to seek the help they need is due to the stigma associated with the disease of mental illness. Main reasons cited are shame and fear of judgment from friends, family and co-workers. Such judgment is often rooted in a lack of knowledge or training.

It is our goal to disseminate information and foster a stigma-free environment where people are free from judgment and can get the help they need to recover from disease.

For more information on the disease of mental illness, visit


    • A new website and help line designed to clarify how to identify, prevent, treat and recover from substance abuse. Nobody is alone. When you visit, you will immediately find the help line number, 1-844-ReachNJ, be able to live chat with a resource officer and pinpoint on a map the nearest treatment facility.
  • The Anatomy of Stigma
    • The history, reach, and consequences of stigma.
  • Stigma – Language Matters
    • Discusses how to speak to and about people with mental illness in a respectful way.
  • Mental Health First Aid – Find a Course
    • Get training in Mental Health First Aid – an 8-hour course that teaches you how to identify, understand and respond to signs of mental illnesses and substance use disorders.
  • NAMI Connection Recovery Support Group
    • NAMI Connection Recovery Support Group is a free, peer-led support group for adults living with mental illness. You will gain insight from hearing the challenges and successes of others living with mental illness. By sharing experiences in a safe and confidential setting, you gain hope and develop relationships. The group encourages empathy, productive discussions and a sense of community.
  • NAMI NJ E-Newsletter
    • Sign up for this informative monthly newsletter from NAMI NJ. Get updates on mental health events throughout the state of New Jersey!
  • Remembering T.J. – A Story of Teen Depression, Lessons and Hope
  • Parent-To-Parent
    • Parent-To-Parent is a Grassroots Coalition for parents and loved ones who are suffering the ravaging effects of substance abuse. It continues to fight the stigma associated with substance abuse. The standard continues to be that drug addiction is a personal failing rather than a complex illness. Addiction is a progressive, debilitating disease that has the potential of being fatal if it is not treated.
    • Morris County support meetings: 7PM on Wednesday nights, St. Clare’s Hospital cafeteria, Dover
  • Active Minds
    • Active Minds is the leading nonprofit organization that empowers students to speak openly about mental health in order to educate others and encourage help-seeking.  With over 400 chapters nationwide, they are changing the culture on campuses and in the community by providing information, leadership opportunities and advocacy training to the next generation.
    • Main Website
    • County College of Morris Chapter
  • Mending Arts
    • Mending Arts are therapeutic workshops formed to improve the lives of children and adolescents suffering from the painful challenges of trauma, loss, separation, maltreatment, serious illness, or disability. We provide programs that utilize the performing, visual, media, literary, and culinary arts or other creative means to promote healing. Our goal is to provide opportunities for the youth to reexamine their experiences, channel their emotions, enhance resiliency, renew trust, and encourage healthy adjustment to circumstances beyond their control.Workshops are designed to promote self-esteem, reinforce children’s pride in accomplishment, and foster a sense of childhood joy, creativity and exuberance while encouraging the development of artistic and interpersonal skills. They are facilitated by board certified master’s level creative arts therapists and trained teaching artists.For more information please call Family Intervention Services: Allison Zeis, mending arts program coordinator or Ingrid Vaca-Bullaro, regional director at 973-586-5243.
    • Programs
      • Our ‘Hood…New Rules! – For Ages 11-14. This group is for pre-teens and teens who want to make a difference within themselves and their community, and connect with an eclectic and creative group of peers.
      • Breaking the Stigma – High School (all) ages 14-18 that want to build self-confidence, explore a positive self-image, and improve self-esteem through performance, narrative-sharing, and creative-expression.
      • Mending Arts Participant Application
  • Wellness Respite Services
    • The Respite House is a safe alternative to an inpatient psychiatric hospitalization. As a peer-run initiative, Respite staff provide 24/7 peer to peer support in working through a mental health crisis. The Respite House provides a comfortable setting in which guests can establish positive coping skills and become empowered to establish healthy habits and routines. For more information, call 862-239-9896.

Contact Us

If you have more questions about stigma and mental health, or want to get involved with the Stigma-Free Communities Initiative, contact Laurie Becker at 973-285-6852 or email [email protected].