In order to bring mental illness and addiction out of the shadows and encourage treatment and support, Middlesex County is launching a county-wide campaign to eliminate the stigma.

Director of Human Services Melyssa Lewis says the county wants the campaign to promote the message that healing and recovery are possible. Residents who are experiencing any kind of addiction or mental health challenges need to know that it's OK to seek help and that we are here to help them.

"We are trying to make this campaign really be a community-wide collaborative approach and we're starting internally first. So we're looking at planned activities for our staff and community board members to be trained in mental health first aid training," Lewis said.

She says the county wants to make sure staff and volunteers are better equipped to work with individuals with potential mental health and substance abuse issues.

To get the information out to their municipalities, they are going to be working through municipal alliances to prevent alcohol and drug abuse that exists in many of the communities.

Lewis says there will also be ongoing training for staff and communities plus they will do messaging through social media to help get the word out about mental illness.

Pledge forms are being sent to educators, advocates, behavioral health provider networks, municipal government contacts and others, asking them to be part of the campaign to confront stigma, to increase awareness and create a greater understanding of the issues in the community.

She adds that our words and actions can often be the determining factors in whether or not someone asks for help.

"We want folks to know that the words we use can have a huge impact on people's willingness to open up about how they're truly feeling," says Lewis.

Sign up for the NJ1015.com Newsletter

Get the best of NJ1015.com delivered to your inbox every day.