One in four adults experiences a diagnosable mental illness every year. One in seven adults experiences a diagnosable substance use disorder every year. Many of these individuals do not seek help because of fear of shame or judgment from friends, family, and co-workers.
Brookdale Community College, at the beginning of the spring semester, made the first steps towards eliminating the stigma with mental illness and substance use disorder. The goal is to create an environment to encourage students to get the resources they need without judgment and to stop the prejudice against mental illness.
“I feel this is an important message to convey so that everyone at the college, every student that we have feels completely supported and knows that they can come to talk with us if they are experiencing any substance use or mental health crisis,” Brookdale President David Stout said.
Brookdale is the first college to officially join the stigma-free movement in Monmouth County.
The college’s board of trustees passed a resolution in order to create an environment in which the students will feel free to seek treatment for the diseases of mental illness and/or substance use disorder without the fear of being stigmatized.
“I really appreciate this resolution,” said Suzanne Brennan, Howell Township municipal defender and Brookdale trustee. “This is something that is important to me in the work that I do. I meet so many people who are struggling with so many different issues, and they all deserve to be heard. There is still a lot of hesitancy, and there is still a fear of ridicule with the association of getting help. I really appreciate Brookdale taking this step. I firmly believe every person matters, every person has a gift, and every person can make a difference. I think it is important that students realize that they are in a safe place and that if they need help to please come to us because there are lots of resources. This resolution shows Brookdale’s heart and our commitment to helping every student, every person with their education and beyond.”
Brookdale hopes to raise awareness of the diseases of mental illness and substance use disorder, promote the use of inclusive language and encourage those who are affected to seek services and feel supported. The college will encourage the use of the many mental health resources available, so no student needs to feel hopeless or alone. The establishment of this Stigma-Free Zone will enable students to ask for help when needed so recovery can begin, hope is inspired, and tragedies are avoided.
“As I observe the changes in the field of wellness in general, I’m always encouraged by any movement to bring the struggles people have out of the darkness and into the light,” said Cathleen Goode, professor of counseling at Brookdale. “Stigma-free acceptance makes us all better people.”
“Psychological struggles do not make us weak; they make us human. Brookdale’s pledge to be stigma-free acknowledges this shared humanity. There is no psychological struggle too big or too small to warrant help,” added Sara Barnett Burrill, assistant professor in the psychology department.
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