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Ways To Erase the Stigma

by Jo Valenti, BSN, RN, Cumberland County Mental Health and Addictions Board

In a 2019 newsletter article on the website, this question was asked: “Is there a connection between creativity and mental health”? Francis Ford Coppola is among the six award-winning movie directors listed in the article. Coppola, known for the Godfather movies among others, was diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

Whether or not creativity is affected by mental health is not actually the point. The point is that mental illness does not prevent a person from leading a productive life—and not just a productive life, but a wildly successful one!

How successful we all are as individuals does not depend on our perceived physical or mental “disadvantages.” There are hundreds of examples of people who went on to spectacular lives overcoming various, and sometimes severe, conditions (think: Helen Keller, Franklin Roosevelt and Beethoven).

Our success depends partly on how well we ignore negativity. Why? Because the negativity of stigma surrounding mental illness could easily prevent a person from thinking they have the potential to succeed in life. Giving in to that negativity means the person may deny that they have a problem leading to not getting whatever help they need to overcome it. What a waste!

So, how can we all help? Everyone must reject the stigma. Actively fight the stigma. Be the catalyst for change by promoting conversations. It is up to each one of us to do what we individually can to erase stigma. Take what you now know and open up a dialogue with others on the dangers of stigma. Help others to see that mental illness is nothing to fear. If you know someone with mental illness let them know that you value their life and appreciate them. By all means, do not exclude them. By doing these things we will overcome stigma.

The Cumberland County Mental Health and Addictions Board actively promotes awareness of stigma and the need for public education regarding mental health and addiction. The Board meets monthly, and the public is invited to attend. Please refer to the meeting schedule on the Cumberland County website for meeting dates.

The Coumberland County Mental Health and Addictions Board is looking for dedicated members. If you or someone you know is interested, send a letter of interest and resume by e-mail to or by mail, Cumberland County Human Services, 70 W. Broad St., Bridgeton, NJ 08302.

Minding Your Mind