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Advocate for those in recovery makes call to #413EndTheStigma

  • Bill Benson of Servicenet talks with Greenfield Police Chief Robert Haigh Jr. and Deputy Chief Mark Williams at the Mental Health and Wellness Fair at the Energy Park in Greenfield on Wednesday. May 16, 2018. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz—PAUL FRANZ

  • Music and speeches filled the air at the Mental Health and Wellness Fair at the Energy Park in Greenfield on Wednesday. May 16, 2018. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz—PAUL FRANZ

  • The Mental Health and Wellness Fair at the Energy Park in Greenfield on Wednesday. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • The Mental Health and Wellness Fair at the Energy Park in Greenfield on Wednesday. May 16, 2018. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz—PAUL FRANZ

  • Frank Kanserstein of The Quabbin House sells his paintings at the Mental Health and Wellness Fair at the Energy Park in Greenfield on Wednesday. May 16, 2018. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz—PAUL FRANZ



Recorder Staff
Thursday, May 17, 2018

GREENFIELD — Sarah Ahern likes to remind people about a helpful tool, known as the “addiction-ary.”

What do you find in an addiction-ary? The language around addiction that can be most appropriate to use.

“Openly declaring you’re in recovery is scary,” Ahern said. “Because of stigma language. Those words are hurtful.”

Those words — like “addict” or “junkie” instead of “person with a substance abuse use disorder” — are more than hurtful, too, she said. The language should center around distancing a disease from defining the person, because if a person sees themselves bound by the disease, it can be damning. “That can mean death for somebody,” Ahern said.

Ahern, the founder of EndTheStigma and a local and growing national advocate for those in recovery from substance abuse, delivered her message before the crowd at the 16th annual Clinical and Support Options Mental Health and Wellness Fair, held at the Energy Park Wednesday.

When Ahern goes to the fair — which brings together health care givers and agencies and peer-support groups — she finds it is a strong statement about Greenfield.

“It gives people with lived experience hope,” Ahern said. “And encouragement.”

She pointed to the Greenfield Police Department, which had a booth at the fair staffed by Sgt. Stephen Westerling, as a great partner. The department has begun to get more training in the world of substance abuse and recovery.

The more the community understands the police are able to check up with them as a means of support, the more likely people battling addiction will reach out for help, Ahern said.

“Having more knowledge makes it easier to make the best decisions on how to best deal with people and get them help they need,” said Deputy Police Chief Mark Williams.

Ahern wants people to know that there’s still a lot of work to do, particularly around language, to help knock down some of that isolation.

“We’re a community that cares, but stigma is such a gaping hole,” Ahern said, which is why she guided others Wednesday in pledging to use more appropriate language. She encouraged some to post pictures on social media with a hashtag, like “#413EndTheStigma” to show solidarity.

Like years past, the annual fair was a day for people to get together and celebrate elements like recovery and mental health, which is why Ahern was so honored to be asked to speak at the event.

“I can inform, educate and include. Include is a key word here. We can’t exclude people because of fear. Those days are over,” Ahern said. “We need to swing open the door.”

You can reach
Joshua Solomon at:

jsolomon@recorder.com