Kearny, New Jersey — a place where stigmas are history

By Kevin Canessa

On this website are two obituaries, one for a young lady, 29, and the other for a young lady, 24. Two local girls, gone in what should be the prime years of their lives.

Both are very sad situations.

No parents should ever have to bury their children. Yet for two families, this happened in the very same week.

It’s not in middle America. It’s not in any huge metropolis. It’s not in one of those places where we so very often hear “this kind of thing doesn’t happen in a town like ours.”

Instead, it’s happened right here. In Kearny. Twice. This week alone. In a town of just over 40,000 people.

An aerial view of Kearny.

It’s not the first time this has happened. It likely won’t be the last time.

Yet no matter what happens — now or in the future — the time to end all stigmas has arrived. It’s not something we can debate anymore. It’s no longer a question of when. The time is here. It’s now. And if you refuse to think otherwise, you’re living in the wrong community.

Our town has seen its share of stigmatized deaths over the last few years. In so many cases, people are afraid to speak of the so-called taboo nature of the deaths. Or, people speak out, don’t think about what they say, and wind up uttering words that are highly inappropriate or shocking.

I’ve lived in Kearny, with a few exceptions, since Dec. 1, 1985. When I left for Florida in 2012, I said countless times that if I were ever to return to New Jersey, it would be Kearny or bust. I love this town. I take great pride in this town. I love to tell people this is my hometown. I detest when people speak poorly of Kearny.

But there’s one more attribute I want to add to Kearny’s superlatives — and that is, that Kearny is a place where stigmas no longer exist.

Because we live in a town where there are drug addicts.

We live in a town where people experience mental-health issues.

We live in a town where people have taken their own lives.

We live in a town where people — of all ages — are bullied.

We must now live a town where it’s always OK — even common — to speak about such instances.

Years ago, I wrote about my own demons on the pages of this newspaper. There were some who thought it was nuts for me to speak about my own addictions and battles with depression. Yet the truth is, those experiences helped me to realize I wasn’t alone.

They helped me to reach out to others in our community to say YOU ARE NOT ALONE. It allowed me a chance to put a face to the problems I experienced — and to say that there is help, no matter what kind of situation you might be in personally.

There is medication.

There is therapy.

There are countless people in this town who are ready to listen at a moment’s notice.

And so one week after we saw the lives of two beautiful 20+-year-olds ending way too soon, I use the space in this column, this week, to make a simple declaration.

Whilst this statement may seem cliché, it’s the truth.

If you’re hurting, if you’re experiencing addiction, if you need help — reach out. Reach out now. There are so many ways you can get help. There are so many beneficial things you can do that don’t involve … death.

No matter who you are, what you’ve done, how you’re feeling, you live in a town where people take care of each other. And despite what anyone else might have told you, you have no reason to fear being open, being honest and being truthful.

Because as of July 1, 2018, even if there are no signs that say so — like there are in Lyndhurst and other places — in my mind, you now live in a stigma-free zone. And never again should you have to worry about your ailments. I care. So many others care. And all we want is for you to battle your demons wisely and with the support you so very deeply deserve.

Nothing else is acceptable. Not now, not ever again.

Welcome to Kearny, N.J., 07032 — a place where stigmas have become part of our 151-year history.

And with luck, in history shall those stigmas forever remain.

Learn more about the writer ...

Editor & Broadcaster at 

Kevin A. Canessa Jr. is the editor of and broadcaster at The Observer, an organization he has served since 2006. He is responsible for the editorial content of the newspaper and website, the production of the e-Newspaper, writing several stories per week (including the weekly editorial), conducting live broadcasts on social media channels such as YouTube, Facebook, and X, including a weekly recap of the news — and much more behind the scenes. Between 2006 and 2008, he introduced the newspaper to its first-ever blog — which included podcasts, audio and video. Originally from Jersey City, Kevin lived in Kearny until 2004, lived in Port St. Lucie. Florida, for four years until February 2016 and in March of that year, he moved back to Kearny to return to The Observer full time. Click Here to send Kevin an email.