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Record - 5/7/2017

RUTHERFORD -- Parents send their children off to college with dreams of them embarking on their journeys of healthy, young adulthood, but three-quarters of mental health disorders begin to manifest during that time at college by the age of 24.

As May 1 marked the beginning of Mental Health Awareness Month, Felician University announced its commitment to helping students that are alone for the first time and may be experiencing mental illness. This week, the university became designated as a "Stigma-Free" zone.

Breaking the stigma and giving mental illness a voice was a theme shared by former Governor and Senator Richard J. Codey, Bergen County Executive James Tedesco III, local town officials and members of the Felician community on May 3.

For some speakers, the discussion hit close to home. Tedesco attended a memorial service in the morning for a county employee who killed himself in his office.

"He wasn't in the right frame of mind and in his office at our county park he took his own life," Tedesco shared.

May 1 started a mental health training for all county employees.

"I said to myself, would a week have made a difference? I don't know. But, I'm proud that my administration is giving employees mental health training," Tedesco said. "It's important and can save someone's life, if not their own."

Early in his career Codey went undercover for two weeks in a mental health hospital. After witnessing conditions, he championed reform as chairman of a health committee. On a more personal basis, Cody's wife suffered in silence with her own illness.

"She was extremely depressed and didn't know why, but she didn't want anyone to know," Codey said. "She would drive 15 miles away to get her medication so no one would know who she was because she had a stigma connected with mental illness."

Codey said his wife suffered from depression from 1989 to 2003 and experienced electric shock therapy, but she hasn't had an episode since 2004.

"This effects all of us," Codey said. "One out of every five families in the state has a loved one with mental illness."

The numbers are higher for college-aged students, according to Sean Campbell, a local activist for the mentally ill and founder of the Campbell Outreach Group.


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