PARAMUS, N.J. -- One in four adults experiences a mental disorder in a given year, yet more than half won't seek treatment -- something that Stigma Free Groups in Paramus and Fair Lawn hope to change.
"Bergen Rocks Out the Stigma" at the Fair Lawn Community Center on Sept. 30 looks to remove the shame and fear of judgment.
"Mental illness is like any other illness, like cancer or heart disease or diabetes," said Mary Ann Uzzi, who heads the Paramus Stigma Free Group. "No one should have to deal with this alone, and everyone should be there for each other."
After Uzzi launched her group in 2013, Bergen County freeholders a year later declared the county a Stigma Free Zone. Thirty municipalities followed suit.
Cynthia Chazen of Demarest participates in tribute to her brother, who committed suicide on New Years Eve 2008.
"He had a lifetime struggling with mental illness," Chazen said. "He probably had bipolar depression, but it wasn’t diagnosed properly. Fifty percent of people who suffer from mental issues have a co-substance abuse. He became an alcoholic."
Chazen created Storm Parents, for those weathering the storm as they deal with mentally ill or addicted children. She also helped get Demarest declared Stigma Free.
Wyckoff local Susan Buckley's own struggles convinced her to join the Paramus group.
Buckley has suffered from depression since she was 13, to the point where she made lists of people she wanted at her funeral. She was given anti-depressants, which triggered mania.
It was until she was 55 that Buckley was diagnosed bipolar.
"I realized I had been ashamed of myself, I stigmatized myself and was keeping myself in the closet," she said. "Then I came out on Facebook. It was a big turning point in my life.
"After being properly diagnosed and medicated, my quality of life went up 99.9%. It shows people can't be afraid to lose their job or be embarrassed or be ashamed. These are things that will keep them from getting help."
Co-sponsored with Bergen Regional Medical Center in Paramus, "Bergen Rocks Out the Stigma" will be held from 6-10 p.m. at the Fair Lawn Community Center at 20th and Kipp streets.
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