Former First Lady Mary Jo Codey is used to being in the spotlight, and used to being associated with her husband's political career as Governor (2004-06) and New Jersey Senate President. However, she is most famous for her campaign to build awareness about postpartum depression and offer resources for women, their families and health care professionals.
After the birth of her first son, Kevin, in 1984, Mary Jo experienced symptoms of what she later learned was postpartum depression. Fearing for the safety of her baby and feeling like a liability and an inconvenience to her family, she placed Kevin in her husband's arms and checked herself into a mental hospital. With therapy and medication and the help of her family and friends, she was able to battle her depression.
Years later, Mary Jo was diagnosed with breast cancer, the same disease that had taken her mother. As she recovered from her breast cancer she was struck by the contrast between the excellent care she received during her breast cancer ordeal compared to the care available for postpartum depression.
There existed great outpouring of support and help for breast cancer patients, yet the social stigma attached to mental illness meant that relatively little help or understanding existed for postpartum depression. Mary Jo decided to make the change. She established a support group at her local hospital, St. Barnabas. She and her husband were able to champion legislation in New Jersey that led to greater awareness of Postpartum Depression and the first screening law in the nation to ensure that all new mothers are screened for the risk factors of PPD before leaving the hospital. The Former First Lady continues to fight for greater understanding, support and treatment for postpartum depression.
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