Contact: Julie Willmot
(609) 278-7137

HAMILTON, N.J. -Mercer County Executive Brian M. Hughes, County mental health professionals and representatives of mental health services nonprofit NAMI Mercer today displayed the County's newly created mental health guide for children at Mercer County Connection in Hamilton.

Hughes was joined by Mercer County Human Services Director Marygrace Billek, members of the advisory Mercer County Children's Interagency Coordinating Council, NAMI President Pat Demers, and NAMI Executive Director Sally Osmer in unveiling the guide as part of national Mental Health Awareness Month.

The new, 70-page "Guide to Mental Health Services for Children and Adolescents in Mercer County" is a directory that was developed with NAMI Mercer to provide Mercer County residents, including families and professionals, with information about behavioral health resources and the ability to navigate through the local behavioral health system specifically related to young people.

"We recently recognized this piece of public service was missing and that we needed to consolidate this information and provide it to our residents," said Hughes. "This new guide is an important, easily accessible resource our residents can now use to get information about who they can turn to for help."

The guide, which can be obtained free of charge at County Connection or viewed on the County website, lists mental health and social service agencies, descriptions of their services, and contact information for residents in one convenient package.

Hughes also said a shared goal of both Mental Health Awareness Month and creating the free guide is to erase the stigma surrounding mental illnesses.

According to the National Institute for Mental Health, in the United States, approximately one in four adults is living with a mental illness and one in five families will experience a loved one with mental health problems.

In addition, Hughes emphasized that mental illness can sometimes be singularly identified with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, a presumption that is inaccurate. Mental illness also includes eating disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, panic and anxiety disorders, depression, and other problems, all of which can be found in children and young people as well as adults.

"The stigma surrounding mental illness and getting information and treatment still exists," Hughes said. "This can be even more dangerous when mental illness affects children, who may be scared or unsure how to address their problem. We're hoping this guide is an easy and painless way for our residents to access mental health services."

NAMI Mercer, a chapter of the nationwide nonprofit organization of families and individuals that seeks to provide education, support services, and empowerment to those dealing with mental illness, agreed, saying its partnership with Mercer County on the mental health services guide is a big step in the right direction.

This guide was developed by the Mercer County Children's Interagency Coordinating Council (CIACC) with NAMI Mercer to provide Mercer County residents, including families and health professionals, with information about existing behavioral health services for youth and families in Mercer County and beyond.

The Mercer County CIACC is a committee of professional, family, and community volunteers who review, develop, and implement plans to meet the behavioral health needs of youth and families in Mercer County. Anyone who would like more information about the work of the Mercer County CIACC is encouraged to attend a CIACC monthly meeting or contact the County Division of Mental Health at (609) 989-6864.

More information on mental health services can be found by visiting Mercer County online at http://www.state.nj.us/counties/mercer/departments/hs/mental.html or the New Jersey Division of Mental Health Services at http://www.state.nj.us/humanservices/dmhs/index.html.