The Carter Center Mental Health Programs
The Carter Center’s Mental Health Program combats the stigma of mental illness and promotes improved mental health care. Its founder, former First Lady Rosalynn Carter, also chairs the center’s Mental Health Task Force of eminent people in the field, and each year brings together leaders of national mental health organizations to foster consensus on pivotal issues. Her advocacy over the decades led to the passage of the Mental Health Parity Act in 2008. Lending her voice to many important causes, Carter promotes early childhood immunization through the nationwide “Every Child by Two” campaign and assists caregivers through the Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregiving.

About Rosalynn Carter
Rosalynn Carter, the wife of the thirty-ninth U.S. president, Jimmy Carter, has forged a career in public service as one of the nation’s foremost advocates for mental health. Her lifelong dedication to improving life for women, children, the elderly, people with mental illness, and impoverished people worldwide earned her recognition in 2007 with one of our inaugural In Harmony with Hope awards. Mrs. Carter wrote in her 2010 book, Within Our Reach, “There is a strong association between poverty and mental illness, though that relationship is not fully understood.” Mrs. Carter has told us that mental health difficulties, if not properly addressed, can indeed be a pathway to poverty, and that the reverse is also true: high-poverty environments are high-stress environments and are difficult on mental health.

While serving as Georgia’s first lady Rosalynn Carter first learned of the challenges their constituents faced in caring for loved ones with mental illness. She was moved to do something and so began her lifelong dedication to fighting the stigma against mental illness and improving the quality and availability of mental health care. In the White House she chaired the President’s Commission on Mental Health, holding hearings across the country, testifying before the U.S. Congress, and spearheading passage of the Mental Health Systems Act of 1980.

She worked to create what she described as “a more caring society,” fostering programs and services not only for people with mental illness but also for senior citizens, women, and disenfranchised groups. She lobbied vigorously for the Equal Rights Amendment, mobilized a worldwide coalition to raise tens of millions of dollars for refugees in Cambodia, and brought together all the advocacy organizations for the elderly at a White House round table discussion on aging.

The year after she and her husband left the White House, they founded The Carter Center in Atlanta. A not-for-profit, nongovernmental organization, the Center works to advance peace and health worldwide and has helped to improve the quality of life for people in more than 80 countries. The Center’s dedicated staff fulfill its mission to “wage peace, fight disease, and build hope” worldwide.

Carter also oversees the Center’s Mental Health Program, which combats the stigma against mental illness and promotes improved mental health care, chairs the Carter Center Mental Health Task Force of eminent persons in the field, and each year brings together leaders of national mental health organizations to foster consensus on pivotal issues. One of the program’s primary initiatives is fighting stigma through mental health journalism. Through the Rosalynn Carter Fellowships for Mental Health Journalism, eight fellows are mentored by a member of the center’s Journalism Fellowship Advisory Board—a group of leading experts in the fields of mental health and media who are known for their significant contributions to mental health or journalism. The program also has an international component with fellows from as far afield as New Zealand, South Africa and Romania. They each are charged with producing a news piece about mental health that works towards the goal of reducing stigma. At the culmination of their project, large-scale public dissemination is achieved through a fellow’s media outlet (e.g. NPR, The Los Angeles Times, PBS etc.) and to a network of mental health professionals and government representatives via live chats on the Web, podcasting, and posting in digital archives on The Carter Center Web site. Since the program’s creation in 1996, thousands of pieces have been created by hundreds of fellows—works that have been recognized by some of the world’s most prestigious awards.

Lending her voice to many important causes, Rosalynn Carter also promotes early childhood immunization through the nationwide “Every Child by Two” campaign and assists family and professional caregivers through the Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregiving at Georgia Southwestern State University. Additionally, Carter was instrumental to the passage of the 2008 Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act, which insures that mental health patients receive the same insurance coverage as other patients. As a Distinguished Fellow of the Emory University Institute for Women’s Studies, she encourages young women to reach their full potential, and she helps build housing for the poor as a volunteer one week a year with Habitat for Humanity.

Since leaving the White House, Carter has published five books: her autobiography, First Lady from Plains (1984); with Jimmy Carter, Everything to Gain: Making the Most of the Rest of Your Life (1987); with Susan K. Golant, Helping Yourself Help Others: A Book for Caregivers (1994) and Helping Someone with Mental Illness: A Compassionate Guide for Family, Friends, and Caregivers (1998); and Within Our Reach: Ending the Mental Health Crisis (2010).

In 2001, Rosalynn Carter became only the third first lady named to the National Women’s Hall of Fame, joining the company of such women of achievement as Abigail Adams and Eleanor Roosevelt. In 1999, she and President Carter received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, our nation’s highest civilian honor.

[August 2011]


About The Carter Center

The Carter Center is committed to advancing human rights and alleviating unnecessary human suffering. They invite you to join them in creating a world in which every man, woman, and child has the opportunity to enjoy good health and live in peace. They are working to prevent neglected diseases such as Guinea worm, river blindness, trachoma and malaria. And while they’re in a country helping out anyway, perhaps that country would like a little democracy with their health care. They’re in a unique position to help, not being at all affiliated with the United States government. They’ve done it in 70 countries so far, including helping with a constitution, election monitoring, and more.