Former Gov. Codey and Wife Mary Jo Start Fund to Help Those with Mental Illness

After a personal battle with mental health illness, former Gov. Richard Codey and his wife Mary Jo Codey have begun the Codey Fund for Mental Health. The former governor and his wife told NJTV News Managing Editor Mike Schneider that when the Garden State’s former first lady experienced postpartum depression, she felt ashamed and made a promise for when she got better.

“I used to pray all the time that if I got better I would do something to help people that were in the same condition that I was in and I made a promise so I’m keeping my promise,” said Mary Jo Codey.

The former first lady also went through a battle with breast cancer. She described her battle with cancer as easier than her battle with depression.

She also said that with mental illness, people can feel alone and ashamed. In her battle with depression, she says that she kept thinking about what weakness she could have had that may have started her depression.

Former Gov. Codey said that there is a stigma attached to mental illness and that within the state of New Jersey, many more are affected by it than cancer and heart disease.

“There’s a stigma attached to mental illness,” said Richard Codey. “More New Jerseyans are affected by mental illness than cancer and by heart disease but yet it’s very socially acceptable as we all know to raise money to battle cancer, which is a good cause, or heart disease but yet we have all these people out there who suffer almost in silence and for many of them they’re ashamed to say anything. And our campaign and what our foundation wants to start doing is saying, listen it’s all right to say you have a mental illness because you need to speak up, stand up and get help. There is help out there.”

In order for people to get the help that they need, Mary Jo Codey says that there needs to be more resources because there aren’t enough low-cost therapy options and people don’t know where to go.

She also says that people don’t realize that they can get better. When she went through depression, Mary Jo Codey says she needed both talk therapy and medication.

Gov. Codey remembers how his wife felt throughout her battle with depression when their son was 3 months old.

“When we had our first son, I was 38 and he’s 3 months old and all of a sudden I’m driving my wife down to a psychiatric hospital and she’s telling me, ‘Listen, divorce me, marry somebody else. I’m never going to get well.’ That’s the way she felt. She was embarrassed, she was ashamed and she was very calm and I was not,” said Codey. “I was upset. I had tears in my eyes.”

Both the former governor and Mary Jo Codey say that if people don’t give up hope, they can get better.