The nation and the world recently lost a long-time champion for mental health. Former First Lady Rosalynn Carter passed away on Sunday, November 19, 2023. Her contributions and impact to advance mental health are too numerous to mention here. But she blazed a trail that many of us have followed since. An unwavering, steadfast leader, champion, and advocate for mental health. That was Rosalynn Carter.
Her advocacy for mental health began in 1970 as First Lady of then-Georgia governor Jimmy Carter. Led by conversations with voters while on the campaign trail, Ms. Carter took a strong interest in mental health. Once Jimmy Carter was elected governor, she became a strong and vocal mental health champion and worked to increase awareness and improve services for the people of Georgia.
In 1976 when Governor Jimmy Carter was elected President, Mrs. Carter continued to embrace and champion causes near and dear to her heart. In early 1977 when President Carter appointed members to the President’s Commission on Mental Health, she served as honorary chair and took an active role in the work of the commission, culminating in the submission and passage of the Mental Health Systems Act of 1980 (MHSA), legislation signed by President Jimmy Carter, which provided grants to community mental health centers in the US.
The Hogg Foundation and Rosalynn Carter have a long-standing historical connection. In 1978, she served as the keynote address for our inaugural, biennial Robert Lee Sutherland Seminar, an event named after our first executive director. The seminar drew 1,000 attendees to examine the implications of the U.S. President’s Commission on Mental Health Report for the people of Texas. Through the years she remained a good friend and supporter of the Hogg Foundation and for that we are eternally grateful.
Under the leadership of former First Lady Rosalynn Carter, the Carter Center’s Mental Health Program was established to promote awareness about mental health, to inform and influence public policy, to reduce mental health stigma and discrimination, and strived to achieve equity and parity for mental health.
From 1985 – 2016, the annual Rosalynn Carter Symposium on Mental Health Policy brought together national leaders in mental health to improve mental health for the US through policy, practice, and partnerships.
The Hogg Foundation has been honored to take part in numerous Carter Center Mental Health Symposiums. We go there to learn, to contribute, and to take up the charge of Mrs. Carter: for all people to live to their fullest potential mentally, physically, and spiritually; and contribute in a positive way to their families and communities.
I cannot underscore the loss of Mrs. Carter to the field of mental health. She held herself to a high bar. And for those of us fortunate and honored to have been in her presence, she left an indelible mark.
Service. Of the highest order. That’s what Rosalynn Carter stood for.
Although we have made strides over the decades in the field of mental health, there is still much to do. Rosalynn Carter left the world of mental health in a much better place. Thank you, Mrs. Carter. We owe it to you to honor your legacy and to continue your work to improve mental health, resiliency, and well-being for all of America.
- Rosalynn Carter | Biography & Facts | Britannica
- Robert Lee Sutherland Seminars
- Carter Symposium 2014: Celebrating the Past and Shaping the Future
- Remarks on Signing Into Law the Mental Health Systems Act | The American Presidency Project (ucsb.edu)
- The Rosalynn Carter Symposium on Mental Health Policy (cartercenter.org)
- First Lady Rosalynn Carter leads fight against stigma, mental illness (cartercenter.org)