New Website Aims to Eliminate Stigma in Bergen County Community
By Mel Fabrikant Thursday, December 19, 2013, 06:11 PM EST
On November 25th the Paramus NJ Stigma-Free Zone, a community based initiative, officially launched a website to expand on the mission of ending the stigma associated with mental illness. The new website, paramusstigmafree.org, was created as a way to help spread news, information, and resources to the community.
In July of 2013, Paramus was declared the nation’s second Stigma-Free Zone by Paramus Mayor Richard LaBarbiera. The group’s aim is to raise awareness of mental illness and eliminate the stigma associated with it starting at the community level. The Stigma-Free Zone has its own “task force” made up of volunteers from local businesses, concerned citizens, local government, and the Board of Education. These individuals have chosen to support and promote the Stigma-Free Zone out of a unified belief that the best way to end stigma is to begin the public conversation about mental illness.
With the addition of the website, the Stigma-Free Zone intends to advance the conversation on mental illness to a broader audience. Members of the Bergen County community will be able to check in on their own time and view mental health resources, upcoming events, links to relevant content, and task force updates. The website will also allow the Paramus Stigma-Free Zone to have a wider reach in the community.
Information about upcoming events can also be found on the website. This includes a special dance performance by Paramus high school and college students which will take place on January 25th, 2014 at the Paramus Park Mall. The Stigma-Free events are designed to encourage positive communication on mental health and include members of the community.
“We are so fortunate to have a special website dedicated to our Paramus Stigma-Free Zone initiative. It will serve as a powerful tool, bringing our community the latest information on mental health, resources and trainings available, and updates on our town's journey to overcome stigma. We encourage every member of our Paramus family to visit our website and expand their understanding of mental illness. Together we can make a difference,” stated Mary Ann Uzzi, task force chair.
Through her 10 years as a Board Member and volunteer for Care Plus NJ, Inc., Uzzi has become an advocate for those with mental illness. Uzzi envisioned a strong community effort to address the growing mental health crisis in our country and, with the help of CarePlus, created the Stigma-Free Zone.
As the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) states, “Lack of knowledge, fear of disclosure, rejection of friends, and discrimination are a few reasons why people with mental illness don’t seek help.” The reduction of stigma will help increase the chances of an individual seeking treatment for any type of mental illness.
In addition to the new website, the Stigma-Free Zone also has a Facebook and Twitter page. Both pages were created earlier this year and have daily content updates.