"Stigma is the primary barrier
to the achievement of wellness and recovery and full social integration.
It appears as discrimination, fear, distrust, and stereotyping.
Stigma results in people avoiding working alongside,
socializing with and/or living in close proximity to
people with a mental illness.
Stigma deters people from seeking help
for fear that their confidentiality will be breached.
It gives insurers, public and private, tacit permission
to restrict coverage for mental illnesses
in ways that would not be tolerated for other illnesses.
Historically stigma has allowed mental health
to be separated from mainstream health.
Mental health must be seen for what it is:
a public health issue, no different than other medical disorders.
For New Jersey to reduce the burden of mental illness,
to improve housing, to improve access to care
and to achieve urgently needed
public education about mental illnesses and mental health,
stigma must no longer be tolerated."
~ Governor’s Task Force on Mental Health Final Report
March 31, 2005
In the past year nearly 60 million people - almost 25% of all Americans - experienced a mental health disorder. Every 15 minutes someone in the country takes their own life when succumbing to overwhelming and painful feelings of despondency. Fifty-percent of adults with mental illness had signs and symptoms by age 14.
And yet, despite great advances having been made in the field of mental health, people who suffer from psychiatric disorders still continue to face stereotyping, work and housing discrimination, insurance coverage inequity, bullying, and even physical violence. Even more discouraging is the fact that fewer than 30% of those with a
diagnosable mental disorder ever seek treatment. Medical professionals believe that it's the stigma of being labeled as having a mental illness which creates a fear and shame so pervasive in individuals that it prevents many people from seeking help.
Recently, a bright green sign appeared at Crane's Park on Bloomfield Avenue: "West Caldwell is a STIGMA FREE TOWN sponsored by The Codey Fund for Mental Health." In an interview with West Essex Now, former New Jersey Governor and current State Senator Dick Codey explained that West Caldwell was the first municipality to pass an ordinance calling for a "Stigma" sign to be displayed in their town.
"First came West Caldwell, and then soon enough East Hanover,
West Orange and Madison," Codey commented.
"The cost is minimal to the municipalities and they stimulate conversation."
"It's about getting to the point
where the stigma against mental illness doesn't exist," Codey stated.
From it's conception, the private foundation has supported programs which benefit families, homeless people and the patients suffering from severe psychiatric illness who are committed in hospitals. The Codey's have been vocal spokespersons on behalf of the mentally ill; Mary Jo, in particular, openly discusses how she suffered from postpartum depression after the birth of their two sons. Since 1993, she has often recounted in public her gratitude for her doctors and the medications and shock treatments which she believe saved her life.
Mary Jo is also a survivor of breast cancer. She has noted that during her chemotherapy treatments people would encourage her with positive affirmations and encouragement. However, when receiving her shock treatments, no one came forward with supportive comments and she has stated that it made her feel ashamed.
As First Lady of New Jersey, Mary Jo helped launch the "Recognizing Postpartum Depression: Speak Up When You’re Down” campaign to bring greater awareness to the public about postpartum depression. Because of the Codey's focusing on the issue of childbirth and mental illness, New Jersey became the first state in the country to require that all new mothers be screened for postpartum depression before they are dismissed from the hospital.
The task force's final recommendations, titled "New Jersey’s Long and Winding Road To Treatment, Wellness and Recovery," included 15 issues the advisory panel felt needed to be addressed by the state of New Jersey to improve access to and provide for better quality patient care. The task force identified areas of immediate relief needed in New Jersey's psychiatric industry and also provided a blueprint for developing a quality state mental health care program.
Mood Disorders Treatment
At the Mental Health Association, the staff concentrates a great deal of their time helping individuals cope with "Mood Disorders," also known as "Affective Disorders." Typical disorders they treat include:
- Lasting feelings of great sadness or hopelessness.
- Extreme mood swings (highs and lows); also known as "manic-depressive illness."
- A group of disorders marked by very unusual thoughts, actions and emotions.
- Symptoms include:
Obsessions and delusions (false beliefs)
Strong fears and hallucinations (having visions or hearing voices)
Unusual thought and speech patterns
- Behavioral problems and withdrawal from every day life
Severe or lasting fears or anxieties including:
- General Anxiety
Constant worrying or tension
- Panic Attacks
Sudden fear or terror, causing heart flutters, dizziness, sweating
The association's staff is available to help through their Help Line which is available
Monday through Friday, from 8:30am to 7pm. Individuals may also call 973-509-9777.
Davison recommends the Mental Health America whose motto is "There is no health without mental health." The site has an online Mental Health Screening tool which aims at helping individuals determine whether they are experiencing symptoms of a mental health condition.
"I have always believed that most people in this country are caring individuals,
especially for those who are less fortunate," Tempesta said to West Essex Now.
"For some reason, however, the stigma of mental illness causes many people
to shy away and not be as forthright and compassionate
as they would to someone who may have a different disability."
"When Governor Codey started the Codey Fund for Mental Health he asked me to help promote awareness and without hesitation I said yes," Tempesta said.
"It is a natural extension to my beliefs that
all of us should be made more aware of mental illness.
People who are struggling need to know that there is help out there.
They should not be afraid to approach someone if they feel they need help.
And if any of us knows of someone who needs help,
let's get them what they need."
"I am very pleased, thrilled really, with Mayor Tempesta who stepped
up to the plate in a big time way to get this sign displayed," Codey expressed. "Mental health is not about Republicans and Democrats.
It's about the people of West Caldwell, who may otherwise be afraid to ask,
now feeling more comfortable to seek health information from their town. And that's all because the Mayor and Council
were willing to step up and and God bless them for it."
- Work to overcome stigma, stereotyping and discrimination
- Advance mental health education for at-risk youth, mothers with post-partum depression, the homeless and patients in psychiatric hospitals
- Promote effective treatment and sustain recovery
“Our aim is to end, probably not in my lifetime but in my children’s lifetime,
the stigma associated with mental illness,”
then Governor and current State Senator Dick Codey said
at a 2012 news conference announcing the Codey Fund for Mental Health.
“Today, nearly 25 percent of all Americans experience a mental health disorder. That’s more people than have cancer and heart disease.
Yet, let’s be honest about it,
it's very socially acceptable to raise money for cancer and heart disease
but we can’t say that about mental illness.”
To make a tax deductible donation in support of The Codey Fund for Mental Health, individuals should download and complete this form found online here and mail it along with the donation to :
- The Codey Fund for Mental Health
300 Executive Drive, Suite 360
West Orange, NJ 07052
“For too long we have swept the problems of mental illness
under the carpet and hoped that they would go away," the Codey Fund states.
"The time has come to stand up, speak out and get help.”
"This is not a political issue, this is a humanitarian issue
and our governing body has compassion for those
who need our help and seek our help," Mayor Tempesta commented.
"West Caldwell is proud to support the concept and I hope people will be
more compassionate towards someone suffering with mental illness
or if they know of someone they feel needs help,
we should all try and get them the help they need."
The Codey Fund for Mental Health
300 Executive Drive, Suite 360
West Orange, NJ 07052
Mental Health Association of Essex County
Executive Director: Robert N. Davison
33 South Fullerton Avenue
Montclair, NJ 07042