N.J. Governor’s Council on Mental Health Stigma

October 14, 2008
Celina Gray:  609-633-1216

Campaign helps veterans battle mental health stigma

Counselors to receive specialized training to work with returning soldiers

EDISON – The New Jersey Governor’s Council on Mental Health Stigma today launched a public outreach initiative to help veterans battle mental health stigma and also announced special training for counselors who are working with the returning soldiers.

“Life Doesn’t Have to Be a Battlefield…Don’t Let Stigma Stand in Your Way” is a grassroots outreach campaign aimed at veterans who often suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome and other mental illnesses.

The campaign and training session were announced today at a press conference at the Menlo Park Veterans Memorial Center, where legislators, veterans and mental health advocates stressed the need for the services.

The sad truth is that our soldiers are having a difficult time getting the support they need when they come home,” Governor Jon S. Corzine said. “We can’t let this go on. It is our moral obligation to those who stand up for the rest of us. We must do everything we can to make sure we serve the people who serve our nation.”

“These veterans should not have to fight any stigma when they seek help for the stresses that they suffered because of everything they have seen,” said Council Executive Director, Celina Gray. “They have should not have to face another battle at home.”

DHS Commissioner Jennifer Velez said collaboration between the Council, the New Jersey Department of Military and Veterans Affairs PTSD Task Force and the Division of Mental Health Services (DMHS) resulted in a campaign that should help educate veterans and the general public about the need to eradicate stigma and promote treatment.

“Governor Corzine continues to show his commitment to mental illness and to veterans by promoting this important initiative,” Commissioner Velez said. “In this time of war and dire economic times, we need to do all we can to make sure that people get the proper treatment that can help them in their struggles.”

“This initiative is so important in our efforts to meet the mental health needs of our veterans” said Major General Glenn K. Rieth, Adjunct General, DMAVA.  “It is particularly significant in light of the fact that next year, we will also face the challenge of supporting three thousand troops currently deployed who will be returning to New Jersey.”

"As our troops begin to come home in large numbers, we owe them our gratitude and our support," said Senator Joseph Vitale (D-19), sponsor of several military and veterans affairs bills in the Legislature. "There can be no shame or stigma associated with the emotional toll that results from courage in the face of some haunting experiences."

"I know first hand the stress of war on our military men and women," said Jack McGreevey, a retired United States Marine Corps drill instructor and WWII veteran. "Assimilating back into civilian life is difficult. The nightmares don't go away easily. If this campaign can encourage just one soldier to seek help without embarrassment, it will be a success."

Many mental health providers throughout the state have indicated that specific training will help them better serve their clients who are veterans, according to DMHS Assistant Commissioner Kevin Martone.

Posters and other literature with the anti-stigma message – Life Doesn’t Have to be a Battlefield…Don’t Let Stigma Stand in Your Way – will be distributed throughout the state at the local level through community events and partnerships with mental health providers, veterans organizations, and other groups committed to this issue.  To view the posters, click here for English; click here for Spanish.

The Council has been working with William Devereaux, Coordinator of DMAVA Veterans Services and Chairman of the N.J. DMAVA PTSD Task Force, and the Task Force will partner with the Council in outreach efforts for this campaign.

The Governor’s Council on Mental Health Stigma has initiated the training for New Jersey community mental health providers on the specific mental health care needs and issues of veterans.   The training will focus on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Traumatic Brain Injury, and veterans benefits.

Four full-day training sessions will be held in four regional sites with an anticipated attendance of between 50 and 100 mental health professionals at each session. The training is expected to cost $24,000.

The sessions will be conducted by The Center for Post Traumatic Studies and a team nationally recognized as a leading resource for this type of training. The instructors include John Dorrity, Director of Ocean County Veterans Services and former president of the National Association of County Veteran Service Officers; Dr. Sean Evers, mental health provider for N.J. veterans and consultant for the Vietnam Veterans Leadership Program, Inc., Division of Veterans Services PTSD Project, N.J. DMAVA Clinicians Advisory Committee and N.J. DMAVA Veterans Readjustment Grant; Dr. Walter Florek, Clinical Psychologist for NJVA, former consultant for the Veterans Administration Medical Center, former Director Clinical Services for Vietnam Veterans, and member of The International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies.

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