A year later, bravo to Lyndhurst and North Arlington for adopting ‘Stigma-Free Zones’

Mental-health awareness has been in the forefront of the news, globally, quite a bit in the last year-plus. It was certainly evident just a week ago when a deranged gunman entered a mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, and murdered 50 people in six minutes.

The man was alarmingly casual about his murderous actions as he even took the time to use a helmet-mounted camera to broadcast his carnage live on social media. While the facts are still developing in that case, we will likely find out he suffered from some kind of mental instability that led him to taking the lives of 50 innocent people whose only desire, at that moment, was to pray.

All of this is a reminder of how much work still needs to be done when it comes to mental illness and the stigma that comes along with it.

Last year, however, we saw a lot of progress, especially locally.

This newspaper dedicated significant resources in 2018 to bring readers stories about those with mental illnesses, addiction and more — including the testimony from alcoholics, drug addicts, the families of addicts, those with depression and other forms of biological depression and more. We brought you stories from several moms who had to bury their children who overdosed and who were only in their 20s.

And we brought to you the story of how two local towns — Lyndhurst and North Arlington — adopted what is known as “Stigma Free Zones.” There, stigmas are no more. Public employees have even been trained to detect mental illnesses, addiction, etc., and are making excellent strides on offering help to those who need it, but who often are afraid to seek it, because of the stigmas that are unfairly attached.

Lyndhurst took the steps a year ago this week. North Arlington did so not too far thereafter. So we take this time to offer gratitude and thanks to the leaders of Lyndhurst and North Arlington who did this without fear and without hesitation. It comes as no surprise that under the leadership of Lyndhurst Mayor Robert Giangeruso, former North Arlington Mayor Joseph Bianchi and now Mayor Daniel Pronti these necessary steps were proudly taken.

And while other towns in our readership area have done some good things in this realm, we can’t help but wonder why none have taken the simple step of adopting similar “Stigma Free Zones?” All but one municipality has done so in Bergen County.

Kearny, Harrison, East Newark, Nutley, Belleville and Bloomfield, one year later, we’re still waiting. Let’s not wait too much longer — too many people are depending on it happening once and for all.

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Kevin A. Canessa Jr. is the editor of and broadcaster at The Observer, a place where he has served on and off 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 Facebook Live, 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 West Hudson to return to The Observer full time. Click Here to send Kevin an email.