background shadows
August 9, 2011

 CONTACT: Lauren Kidd
Press Office: 609-633-8507


Young People Plan and Participate in Conference to “Stomp Out Stigma”

CALDWELL – To do their part to combat the stigma associated with mental challenges, young people with behavioral and mental health challenges assisted in developing the “Stomp Out Stigma” 2011 Statewide Youth Conference held Saturday, August 6, through Sunday August 7, at Caldwell College, in Caldwell, Essex County.

“The young people who voiced their opinions to plan the conference for their peers should be very proud of themselves,” said Department of Children and Families (DCF) Commissioner Allison Blake. “Together, we are fighting the stigma often associated with mental health challenges, and young people are learning to advocate for themselves and their peers. Mental illness in no way limits what our young people can achieve.”

The conference was developed by and for young people with mental health challenges. The young people who participated in the conference are all members of Youth Partnerships – peer support and advocacy groups located in each county in New Jersey, funded through DCF’s Division of Child Behavioral Health Services (DCBHS). The Youth Partnerships are a vehicle for fighting stigma and providing support.

“New Jersey Youth are on the forefront of combating stigma and we are proud to be a part of this important effort,” said Celina Gray, executive director of the Governor’s Council on Mental Health Stigma, who spoke at the conference. “Their dedication to changing the way their peers look at mental health will build a future of awareness for generations to come.”

Approximately 100 youth participated in the conference, and spent the night in the dorms of Caldwell College. Through training sessions, speakers, and interactions with their peers, youth were prepared to leave the conference motivated and excited about combating stigma.

The Department of Children and Families (DCF), New Jersey’s state child welfare agency, was created in July 2006 as the state’s first Cabinet agency devoted exclusively to serving and safeguarding the most vulnerable children and families in New Jersey. DCF includes the Division of Youth and Family Services, Division of Prevention and Community Partnerships and Division of Child Behavioral Health Services, and is focused on strengthening families and achieving safety, well-being and permanency for New Jersey's children.