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Celeste Andriot Wood/Mary Jo Codey Transcript

Celeste Andriot Wood, Assistant Commissioner, New Jersey Department of Health: Good morning. It truly is my pleasure to be here today for a very specific purpose and that is really to honor someone who has been instrumental in seeing this project through and being the spokesperson, not only for New Jersey but for the nation.

As first lady, Mary Jo Codey, Mrs. Codey, welcomed the opportunity to advocate on behalf of the Governorís Task Force on Mental Health. Having suffered from postpartum depression, she helped launch a groundbreaking statewide campaign that raised awareness of postpartum depression and offered education and resources to women, their families and to healthcare professionals such as yourselves. The campaign Ė Recognizing Postpartum Depression: Speak Up When Youíre Down Ė featured the first lady in radio and television spots.

She has been tireless in sharing her story through public appearances, interviews, to make sure that she continued to raise awareness regarding postpartum depression and encouraging women to speak up and seek treatment. After years of being a staunch advocate in her own state, here in New Jersey, Mary Jo Codey went to Washington in May 2007 to extend awareness and push for action on the national level. She joined a panel of experts including doctors and mental health professionals to discuss the need before Congress for further research and funding for postpartum depression and postpartum psychosis.

She spoke about the changes that occurred here in New Jersey and she was able to help institute this new campaign here in New Jersey during her husbandís administration, Gov. Richard Codey. In 2009, Mrs. Codeyís media appearances, Iím gonna read these because they include a lot of letters, included: 12 to Your Health on News 12; Ask the Doctor on WCTC-AM radio; Monmouth University radio, WMCX; New Jersey Now on My9 WOR-TV; WHYY-FMís Voices in the Family, the weekly radio show; Gary Gellmanís Letís Talk show. She was also featured in the Mother Load, a weekly column in The Bergen Record; a story in Garden State Women; and is Mom of the Month on

Mrs. Codey is an elementary school teacher. She has become so associated with the campaign that even her students recognize her as a spokesperson for postpartum depression. Again in 2009, she received the Vision in Achievement Award from the Mental Health Association of Passaic County; the Advocatesí Award from the Society of Psychiatric Advanced Practice Nurses of the New Jersey State Nursesí Association; and the Thea Bry Award from UCS Institute for Infant and Preschool Mental Health.

Mrs. Codey, in 2009, joined Sen. Robert Menendez in a press conference urging the passage of the MOTHERíS Act at the national level. Earlier this year, the MOTHERís Act was finally enacted. A group of staunch advocates, which included, of course, Mrs. Codey, gathered at the Ridgewood Womenís Club on May 10 to celebrate and call attention to a new law aimed at quelling problems for many women. Sen. Menendez recognized the efforts of former first lady Mary Jo Codey and her husband, Gov. Richard Codey, in having initiated the nationís first state law requiring attention to these illnesses, to require screening and education of consumers and healthcare professionals.

The program, Speak Up When Youíre Down, has saved numerous lives and brought awareness to New Jerseyís families and is now indeed a template for other state programs across the country.

We would like to present Mrs. Codey with a token of our appreciation. Before I actually present this, you must now that again, the work that she has done has been incredible throughout this state. She has never said no to any requests for appearances or to make sure that the promotion was there to bring awareness to postpartum depression.

She has talked to so many individuals Ė women who have suffered from postpartum depression; professionals in the nursing fields, social service, the medical community. Itís just been incredible and she has made a compelling story for the need for this critical service to make sure women are aware, to make sure health professionals are aware of what the signs and symptoms are and to make sure that women know they can speak out and they can get the help they need.

Again, Iíd ask Mrs. Codey to please come up and Iíd like to present her Ö Iíd like to present you with this token of our appreciation.

Mary Jo Codey: Oh my goodness.

Celeste Andriot Wood: Itís a circular necklace, endless, with her childrenís names on it, which will be held close to her heart. The slogan ďSpeak Up When Youíre DownĒ is on the other side to reflect the positive impact that she has made on countless women through her unwavering commitment to perinatal mood disorders. Mrs. Codey.

Mary Jo Codey: Thank you. Am I gonna ruin this if I put my pad on this?

That award is making me shake. Itís beautiful and it has my childrenís initials on it and I think thatís one of the nicest awards I ever received. Thank you.

Thanks. As Celeste has mentioned, I am a kindergarten teacher at Gregory School in West Orange, New Jersey, and I think the message of postpartum depression is really getting out there because we did, I did the commercial five years ago and itís still running and the children in my elementary school know it by heart, word for word. And the other day I was walking down the hall and one second-grader as I passed by said to another second-grader, Thatís Mrs. Codey. She suffers from postpartum depression. So weíre getting the word out there. Theyíre just too much.

During the time I was hospitalized for depression after the birth of my first son, I went to the medicine chest in my room to take an overdose of my medication. After three months of having postpartum depression, I simply couldnít take it anymore. When I discovered that they had taken my meds from me, it suddenly came to me: The psychiatrists knew that postpartum depression existed. They knew it could torture you with thoughts about hurting your baby. They knew in its worst form, it could make you a threat to yourself and your child.

In my desperation, I thought, when were they going to warn us? The women? Itís not fair that we, the potential victims, donít know.

Standing empty-handed at that medicine chest, I recognized for the first time there ought to be a law, a national law, to make sure women and their families across the country are fully aware of this very common and sometimes devastating side effect of pregnancy. As bad as I felt, I believed it would only be a matter of time that there would be a national law. It was too important not to happen. It never crossed my mind that I would have the opportunity to ultimately become one of the drivers of such an initiative. It was only later, after my second bout of postpartum depression, that I vowed to do whatever I could to make sure no other woman had to endure what I had been through and began my advocacy.

I had no idea that my husband would become governor 20 years later, giving us the opportunity to launch Speak Up When Youíre Down and state postpartum legislation that became part of the foundation for the Melanie Blocker Stokesí MOTHERís Act. I had no idea it would take 25 years for my epiphany to become a reality and I never gave up hope that one day there would be a national law. Sen. Bob Menendez never gave up hope either. He, along with Rep. Bobby Rush of Illinois, persevered until the act became law as part of the new healthcare reform act. I want to thank them. I want to thank them on behalf of all mothers in America. And I want to thank the actís supporters in Congress, in the healthcare professions, in the blogs and chat rooms, and in the various organizations across this country, as well as in this room.

PPD made me feel isolated and ashamed. Itís people like you that have given me the courage to speak up for all women suffering with PPD and ask for help and I am so very grateful for you. Thank you.

Perinatal mood disorders are treatable. But first you have to ask for help.

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Last Modified: Thursday, 12-Jul-12 11:44:31