Brookdale Proud To Be A Stigma-Free Zone, Bright Green and Black Stipes

Brookdale is the First Monmouth County NJ College to Lead the Way to Mental Health Wellness!

Brookdale Community College DECLARES THE COLLEGE A STIGMA-FREE ZONE. 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. At the beginning of the Spring Semester, Brookdale Community College 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.

Brookdale President, Dr. David Stout said “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 Community College is the first college to officially join the stigma-free movement in Monmouth County.  Embracing this movement helps to ensure that along with developing skills in a chosen field, students will develop leadership skills in treating everyone fairly, with dignity, and respect.  We are elated to have Brookdale on board with this movement,” said Pamela Major, Children’s Interagency Coordinating Councils (CIACC) Coordinator Monmouth County Office of Mental Health and Addiction Services and Stigma-Free Committee Coordinator.

The Brookdale 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 Howell Township Municipal Defender and Brookdale Trustee, Suzanne Brennan. “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.”

“Fifty percent of Americans will meet the criteria for a diagnosable mental health condition sometime in their life, and half of those people will develop conditions by the age of 14. In the last year, the increases of depression and anxiety have never been more prevalent fueled by the sense of isolation and stress caused by the pandemic. The Mental Health Association of Monmouth County and our national affiliate Mental Health America commend President Stout and the leadership of Brookdale College for becoming the first college to declare themselves a stigma-free zone, thereby supporting an environment where all faculty, students, and families are comfortable reaching out for help should they need it,” said Wendy S. DePedro, President/CEO of the Mental Health Association of Monmouth County.

Cathleen Goode, Ed.S. Professor of Counseling at Brookdale Community College stated, “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. I couldn’t be more proud of the institution for this and look forward to participating as a member of the Counseling Department. Stigma-free acceptance makes us all better people.”

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. Brookdale 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.

“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.  At Brookdale, we commit to helping and supporting one another through acceptance, connection, hope, and healing,” said Sara Barnett Burrill, EdM, MS, MA, Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology, Brookdale Community College.

Brookdale urges anyone who would like more information on the Stigma-Free Initiative to contact Sara Burrill sburrill@brookdalecc.edu, and to help us to eliminate stigma and promote wellness amongst the entire Brookdale Community. To join the Monmouth County Stigma-Free Committee, please email Pamela Major at pamela.major@co.monmouth.nj.us