Mahwah is Stigma-Free


Mahwah is Stigma-Free

Designated a Stigma-Free zone since March 2017

Bergen County's Division of Mental Health spearheaded the movement to end the stigma that has been associated with mental illness. Mahwah's town council and mayor signed a Stigma-Free resolution on March 23rd, 2017 in order to make mental health a community priority. There are many things that we can do to promote mental health awareness in town and beyond. We are actively looking for volunteers and would love your input. If you would like more information about our committee and how you can help make a difference.

Please email Jayne Demsky or Sharon Pushie for more information.

What does a Stigma-Free Zone mean?

We strive to eliminate the stigma of Mental health

silent icon.png

Stigma shames people into silence. It prevents them from seeking help. And in some cases, it takes lives.

judgement icon.png

Some people describe stigma as a feeling of shame or judgement from someone else.

thumbs down icon.png

Stigma is also when a person is viewed in a negative way just because they have a mental health condition.

confused icon.png

Stigma can even come from an internal place, confusing feeling bad with being bad.


NAMI. 2018

Why should you care about the Stigma-Free movement? 

Given the prevalence of mental illness, it is possible that you or someone you know has a mental illness.



adults in America experience a mental illness


youth ages 13-18 live a with mental health condition


leading cause of death in youth ages 10 - 24 is suicide



years of average delay between onset of symptoms and intervention for children and teens


adults with a mental illness didn’t receive mental health services in the previous year


can make the difference or even save someone’s life by being aware, supportive and offering your assistance to find them help

*stats from NAMI 2018


What is Stigma?

Support the 1 in 5 people affected by mental health conditions. Get tested for stigma at

By Laura Greenstein NAMI.ORG Oct.11, 2017

“Most people who live with mental illness have, at some point, been blamed for their condition. They’ve been called names. Their symptoms have been referred to as “a phase” or something they can control “if they only tried.” They have been illegally discriminated against, with no justice. This is the unwieldy power that stigma holds.

Stigma causes people to feel ashamed for something that is out of their control. Worst of all, stigma prevents people from seeking the help they need. For a group of people who already carry such a heavy burden, stigma is an unacceptable addition to their pain. And while stigma has reduced in recent years, the pace of progress has not been quick enough.

9 Ways to Fight Mental Health Stigma

  1. Talk Openly About Mental Health - “I fight stigma by talking about what it is like to have bipolar disorder and PTSD on Facebook. Even if this helps just one person, it is worth it for me.” – Angela Christie Roach Taylor

  2. Educate Yourself and Others - “I take every opportunity to educate people and share my personal story and struggles with mental illness. It doesn't matter where I am, if I over-hear a conversation or a rude remark being made about mental illness, or anything regarding a similar subject, I always try to use that as a learning opportunity and gently intervene and kindly express how this makes me feel, and how we need to stop this because it only adds to the stigma.” – Sara Bean

  3. Be Conscious of Language - “I fight stigma by reminding people that their language matters. It is so easy to refrain from using mental health conditions as adjectives and in my experience, most people are willing to replace their usage of it with something else if I explain why their language is problematic.” – Helmi Henkin

  4. Encourage Equality Between Physical and Mental Illness - “I find that when people understand the true facts of what a mental illness is, being a disease, they think twice about making comments. I also remind them that they wouldn't make fun of someone with diabetes, heart disease or cancer.” – Megan Dotson

  5. Show Compassion for Those with Mental Illness - “I offer free hugs to people living outdoors, and sit right there and talk with them about their lives. I do this in public, and model compassion for others. Since so many of our homeless population are also struggling with mental illness, the simple act of showing affection can make their day but also remind passersby of something so easily forgotten: the humanity of those who are suffering.” – Rachel Wagner

  6. Choose Empowerment Over Shame - “I fight stigma by choosing to live an empowered life. To me, that means owning my life and my story and refusing to allow others to dictate how I view myself or how I feel about myself.” – Val Fletcher

  7. Be Honest About Treatment - “I fight stigma by saying that I see a therapist and a psychiatrist. Why can people say they have an appointment with their primary care doctor without fear of being judged, but this lack of fear does not apply when it comes to mental health professionals?” – Ysabel Garcia

  8. Let the Media Know When They’re Being Stigmatizing - “If I watch a program on TV that has any negative comments, story lines or characters with a mental illness, I write to the broadcasting company and to the program itself. If Facebook has any stories where people make ignorant comments about mental health, then I write back and fill them in on my son’s journey with schizoaffective disorder.” – Kathy Smith

  9. Don’t Harbor Self-Stigma - “I fight stigma by not having stigma for myself—not hiding from this world in shame, but being a productive member of society. I volunteer at church, have friends, and I’m a peer mentor and a mom. I take my treatment seriously. I'm purpose driven and want to show others they can live a meaningful life even while battling [mental illness].” – Jamie Brown

This is what our collective voice sounds like. It sounds like bravery, strength and persistence—the qualities we need to face mental illness and to fight stigma. No matter how you contribute to the mental health movement, you can make a difference simply by knowing that mental illness is not anyone’s fault, no matter what societal stigma says. You can make a difference by being and living StigmaFree. " NAMI.ORG

Compassion, empathy and understanding are the antidote. It's time to talk about mental health!

Want to do something about ending the Stigma?

Know the five signs


Personality Change






Poor Self-Care




Campaign to Change Direction is a coalition of concerned citizens, nonprofit leaders, and leaders from the private sector who have come together to change the culture in America about mental health, mental illness, and wellness.