For many with mental illnesses, it’s the stigma that can be especially painful. This is why the Hudson County branch of the Washington, D.C.-based National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) is teaming up with Hoboken City Hall for a series of events that will establish the mile-square city as a “stigma free zone.”
NAMI Hudson is a non-profit, self-help, support, and advocacy organization for those who suffer from mental illnesses as well as their families. The funding for the local branch comes from the state’s NAMI organization, which is primarily funded by donations.
The major event for “Stop Stigma Week” is the kickoff celebration May 17.
NAMI Hudson meets every second Tuesday of the month at 7 p.m. in the Hoboken University Medical Center Mental Health Center, 508 Third St., and is open to those with mental illness and/or relatives of them. The group also holds a monthly meeting in Spanish in Union City.
“It’s an organization that is supportive of people with mental illnesses,” Luchetti said last week. “It’s an organization for family members who have someone in their family afflicted with mental illness and it really serves as a support group.”
As part of a local “Stop Stigma Week,” the group will air two films at the Hoboken Public Library. On May 18 at 6 p.m., the library will show “Canvas,” a film starring Hoboken native Joe Pantoliano, about a family whose mother suffers from schizophrenia. Pantoliano himself runs an organization to stop stigmas associated with mental illness.
On the next night, May 19, at 6 p.m., the group will present the showing of “Mind on the Edge,” a 2009 PBS film featuring a panel discussion about mental illnesses.
NAMI Hudson also coordinated an essay contest for eighth and ninth graders at Hoboken High School. Students were given a choice of two questions to answer in an essay: Why is it wrong to stigmatize people with mental illness, or who is someone with a mental illness that has a positive impact on your life?
Three winners will receive cash prizes of $100, $50, and $25. HUMC’s Community Mental Health Center and NAMI Hudson donated the prize money for the contest. The winners of the contest will be announced at the kickoff celebration on May 17 at 12 p.m. at City Hall.
“We’ve never done this [week-long] event before,” Luchetti said. “It’s something we just created.”
Mayor Dawn Zimmer will issue a proclamation designating Hoboken as the first mental stigma free zone.
“I’m proud to partner with NAMI Hudson to be one of the first, if not the first, city to really raise awareness of this issue,” Zimmer said. “I recognize that it’s really difficult for patients and families. I’m very proud to advocate in any way I can for families dealing with a mental illness.”
Other initiatives, events
In addition to the events being held that week, Zimmer and Luchetti discussed the possibility of training the Hoboken Police Department so that they have more awareness of mental illnesses. The training has been done in Sussex County for police.
Luchetti first became involved with the group through her professional background, as she is a psychiatric social worker at HUMC.
“I am very passionate about my work and I wanted to do more,” she said.
Luchetti says the goal of the weeklong event is to “ask the public to think again about how they view people with mental illnesses.”
As part of the preparation for “Stop Stigma Week” in Hoboken, signs have appeared throughout the city, including in storefronts and at six entrances to town, which were put on display by volunteers.
“The mayor’s office has been great; the high school has been great,” Luchetti said. “[Councilwoman] Theresa Castellano also helped me get the signs placed around town.”
As part of the City Hall kickoff event, people with mental illnesses, or “consumers,” will present art sculptures made out of empty medicine bottles.
“The consumers wanted to be a part of the event,” Luchetti said. “They want it to be an event they can be proud of so we thought of a creative arts project. They had complete creative control.”
The average meeting for NAMI Hudson draws between 20 to 40 people from throughout Hudson County, including West New York, Jersey City, and Union City. For more information, contact NamiHudson@msn.com.
Ray Smith may be reached at RSmith@hudsonreporter.com
Schedule of events
- May 17 – Proclamation at City Hall and event kickoff presentation, 12 p.m.
- May 18 – Showing of the film ‘Canvas’ – Hoboken Public Library, 6 p.m.
- May 19 – Showing of the film ‘Mind on the Edge’ – Hoboken Public Library, 6 p.m.
- Hoboken High School essay contest winners will be announced on May 17 at the kickoff
- Regular NAMI Hudson meetings – Every second Tuesday of the month at 7 p.m., Hoboken University Medical Center - Community Mental Health Center.