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Remembering Rosalynn Carter, Mental Health Advocate.

rosalynn carter in 1977

November 19, 2023, was a sad day for America. We lost half of a humanitarian team that has impacted how we see the world. I’m speaking of Rosalynn Carter. She and her husband, President Jimmy Carter, led a life of giving. Her activism within the mental health field began during his governorship in Georgia (1971 to 1975). She was a member of the Governor’s Commission to Improve Services to the Mentally and Emotionally Handicapped.

Image shows Rosalynn Carter seated during a ceremony where she and President Carter were awarded the 2017 Ivan Allen Jr. Prize for Social Courage.
Image from Flickr.

Rosalynn continued that focus throughout Jimmy’s presidency (1977 to 1981), serving as an active honorary chair of the President’s Commission on Mental Health. Her advocacy assisted in passing the Mental Health Systems Act of 1980. The couple also worked on equal rights issues, coordinating with the family of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and others throughout their tenure in the White House. Below, the pair are pictured singing with Martin Luther King, Sr., Coretta Scott King, Andrew Young, and others.

Image shows President and Mrs. Carter singing with Martin Luther King, Sr., Coretta Scott King, Andrew Young, and others.
Image from Get Archive.

When the Carters left the White House in 1981, Rosalynn continued her advocacy for mental health issues. The team was also instrumental in expanding Habitat for Humanity, the non-profit housing organization. As long as Jimmy could swing a hammer, they assisted with building homes for less advantaged people. Other notable accomplishments for Rosalynn include being the longest-married first lady and the second longest-lived (Bess Truman holds the first position for that record).

Image shows President Jimmy Carter at a Habitat for Humanity structure that he helped to build.
Image from Picryl.

In 1982, President and Mrs. Carter established The Carter Center in Atlanta, Georgia. The center strives to improve people’s lives in the United States and abroad through various programs dedicated to peace and health. Since 1985, the center has coordinated the Rosalynn Carter Symposium on Mental Health Policy. The annual symposium coordinates the efforts of mental health organizations in critical areas. Over the years, The Carter Center has delved into many topics, including:

  • Child and adolescent illness
  • Financing mental health services
  • Researching mental health services
  • Mental illness and the elderly
  • Treatment of mental illnesses
  • Family coping
  • Exploring the stigma of mental illnesses

Rosalynn Carter earned the fitting moniker “First Lady of Mental Health.” The Carter Center will continue her life work in her memory. When sharing her thoughts on work, she said,

You must accept that you might fail; then, if you do your best and still don’t win, at least you can be satisfied that you’ve tried. If you don’t accept failure as a possibility, you don’t set high goals, you don’t branch out, you don’t try – you don’t take the risk.

Rosalynn Carter

Rosalynn certainly did not fail. Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter stayed active until they were well into their 90s. Their advocacy for those less fortunate never wavered. Rosalynn Carter will be remembered well. Rest in peace, great lady.

We leave you today with a video from the day the couple celebrated their 75th wedding anniversary.

You can find the source of this story’s featured image here.

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