In Your Opinion: Decrease Stigma For Those Seeking Mental Health

By Phyllis Beals.

Despite efforts  to increase awareness of resources in Somerset County to help residents of all ages access mental health and substance abuse treatment services, too often I hear people asking where to turn for help, and where to find a treatment provider, especially one who accepts insurance.   We can do better at all levels to educate our residents about existing services, to decrease stigma around seeking help for mental illness or substance abuse and to bring more services to our community.   For this reason and because I have seen the Somerset County Stigma-Free Committee making strides tackling this problem, a few people are forming a “Stigma-Free Franklin Township” Committee.  So far Franklin Woman’s Club and the Township of Franklin have taken the stigma-free pledge changing attitudes and behavior takes more work.   A tool kit for your organization or as an individual is available at https://www.co.somerset.nj.us/government/human-services/stigma-free/take-the-pledge.   If you are interested in being a part of the local committee, please contact me at awpbeals@comcast.net.   

With the permission of Meg Isbitiski, Somerset County Mental Health Administrator /Department of Human Services, excerpts from the September Somerset County Human Services newsletter (available online) follow including helpful resource information. 

“September is suicide prevention and recovery month.  It is an annual federal observance to recognize those in our community who cope and recover from mental health and substance use disorders, as well as a remembrance to those we have lost.  It is a time of reflection and awareness of the very important role a community holds as a social determinant of health.  “Recovery capital”, the total resources a person has available in their community to find and maintain recovery, is dictated by opportunities for meaningful employment, safe and affordable housing, supportive community messages from systems and leaders, safe recreation, and opportunities to advocate.  Communities with have higher rates of recovery capital are imperative to a cohesive and multifaceted place to live, work, and play.

In Somerset County, this feels all too relevant, as we reflect on national reports that highlight these disparities country-wide.  Two data points include: The Surgeon General’s Advisory on Our Epidemic of Loneliness and Isolation  and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Provisional Suicide Deaths in the United States, 2022 .  These reports stress the increased social and emotional disconnect we are experiencing from one another.  This isolation causes us to turn inward and focus to the constant news cycle of bullying stories, politics, inflation, war, climate disasters, and the like. 

We as a community have the opportunity to decide how we want to respond.  By leveraging our resources and successes while analyzing gaps, we can develop meaningful responses to safeguard our residents.”


Call or text 988 (chat online) to access the National Suicide Prevention Hotline for crisis intervention, emotional support, and connection to community resources.  This service is 24-7 and offered at no cost.  Reach out, you are not alone.

If you are experiencing a psychiatric emergency, contact Bridgeway Psychiatric Emergency Screening Services at 908-526-4100. This is a 24-7 service for Somerset County residents of all ages.

Need navigation? Contact our Behavioral Health System Navigator. The Behavioral Health System Navigator serves as a point-of-contact for individuals who live or work in Somerset County in need of accessing an often complex behavioral health system. The Navigator will help any resident or community partner by providing information, brief support, referral, consultation, and liaison services. If you or a loved one are seeking help with connecting to substance use and/or mental health treatment, or support, please contact sbillitz@co.somerset.nj.us or 908-203-6130. 

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