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Fair Lawn Stigma Free Task Force Sets Mental Health First Aid Training

Fair Lawn officials and Mayor John Cosgrove present the Stigma Free T-shirt.
Fair Lawn officials and Mayor John Cosgrove present the Stigma Free T-shirt. Photo Credit: FLSF

FAIR LAWN, N.J. — The Fair Lawn Stigma-Free Task Force will be holding a mental health first aid training course at the Fair Lawn Community Center on Wed., April 6.

The 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. event will teach participants how to identify, understand and respond to signs of mental illnesses and substance abuse disorders. The idea is to provide guests with the tools to support others in crisis.

The Bergen County Stigma-Free Initiative is a county-wide program that aims to reduce the stigma associated with mental illness. It began after Mary Ann Uzzi approached Paramus Mayor Richard LaBarbiera in Spring 2013.

Uzzi — now the organization's chairperson — proposed creating a mental health awareness task force, which was launched that July with help from Care Plus NJ. Fair Lawn adopted a similar program in April 2014 — just before Bergen County declared itself stigma-free.

It's been more than a five years since Fair Lawn mother and task force co-chair Tammy Smith has had symptoms of a mental illness. She's still hesitant to disclose her history with people in fear of jeopardizing her social circle or future job opportunities.

"That's what stigma is," she said. "The hope is that one day people will talk about mental illnesses like they talk about having the flu."

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