'Stigma-free': Burlington County builds effort for mental health awareness

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Burlington County Commissioners have approved a resolution designating the county as "stigma-free" when it comes to issues of mental illness and drug addiction, establishing a task force to help with that mission.

"Stigma is the issue around mental health and substance abuse that can prevent someone from seeking treatment," said Burlington County Human Services Director Shirla Simpson.

She explained that is why the county is taking a "stigma-free" approach and has created a task force to combat misperceptions and boost awareness about mental illness and drug addiction.

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"We've looked to our community to assist us with this challenge, to hopefully help us educated those in community," Simpson added.

"Our next steps are to establish stigma-free zones in all 40 municipalities. We will move to dialogue with all the mayors, and then the superintendents of the schools systems."

To do that, the county will now establish stigma-free zones in all 40 municipalities, work with mayors and school superintendents and offer mental health first aid training as well.

"I'm excited about it," said Bordentown's Lisa Tedesco. She lost her son Paul, 29, to a drug overdose in February of this year. She has joined that task force.

Finding her son's letters after he died spoke volumes.

"Some of it talked about how difficult it was to ask for help, feeling like a failure for not getting help," Tedesco said.

"There's a lot of stigma surrounding it. People are afraid to talk about it or admit to it."

Helping someone else's child is now her goal.

"This would be a good way to help those that feel...there's no judgment if you have this issue," she added.

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