What is stigma? 

Stigma is when someone views a person in a negative way because of their illness or disorder.  Stigma brings experiences and feelings of shame, embarrassment, distress, hopelessness and reluctance to seek or accept help.

Stigma-Free Task Force 

In 2018, the Board of Health passed a resolution to declare the borough a stigma-free zone, initiating the stigma-free initiative.  Pompton Lakes takes a stand against stigma associated with mental illness and substance use disorder by joining forces with concerned citizens, borough officials, schools, places of worships, business owners and other community members.  A Stigma-Free Task Force was formed in 2019 to promote wellness and recovery in the community.  The goals of the task force are to:

  • Raise awareness of stigma associated with mental illness and substance use disorders.
  • Educate residents that mental illness is a disease and must be treated as such.
  • Raise awareness of the prevalence and importance of reducing stigma to encourage those afflicted to seek treatment.
  • Raise awareness of the local mental health and recovery resources available so that no resident needs to feel hopeless, isolation, or shame.
  • Encourage residents to break down barriers and be mindful of their mental health and ask for help when needed.
  • Providing residents an opportunity to become involved in their community.

Why is it important to reduce stigma? 

The World Health Organization ranks mental health conditions, including alcohol and substance use disorders, as the leading cause of disability in the United States, affecting people of all ages and backgrounds.  Nearly one in five U.S. adults live with a mental illness (46.6 million in 2017), yet more than half will not seek treatment.  Why? The main reasons cited are shame and fear of judgment from friends, family, and co-workers.  In other words, the STIGMA associated with mental diseases-even though it's a disease like any other.


The Stigma Free Task Force's Vision is to raise awareness and reduce the stigma of mental illness and substance use disorders, and to create an environment where individuals affected with the disease feel supported by their community and feel free to seek services without fear of being stigmatized.

Helpful Tips to Be Stigma-Free 

  • Avoid using disrespectful terms to describe individuals with mental illness or substance use disorders.
  • Avoid blaming people with mental illness or substance use disorders for their afflictions.
  • Be a role model. Treat people with mental illness and substance use disorders with respect and encourage others around you to do the same. 
  • Declare your home or business to be a Stigma-Free Zone.
  • Spread the Word!