Yesterday, our nation lost a humanitarian, and a devoted mental health advocate.
For more than five decades, Rosalynn Carter championed mental health issues first while serving as the First Lady of Georgia, and then as First Lady of the United States, after her husband was elected the 39th President of the United States.
Upon becoming First Lady, Mrs. Carter declared, “For every person who needs mental health care to be able to receive it close to his home, and to remove the stigma from mental health care so people will be free to talk about it and seek help. It’s been taboo for so long to admit you had a mental health problem.”
She would go on to serve as the honorary chair of the President Carter’s Commission on Mental Health and would become the first sitting First Lady to address the World Health Organization’s World Health Assembly about the findings of the President’s Commission on Mental Health. She would also become the second First Lady in history (after Eleanor Roosevelt), to testify before a Senate committee, in support of the Mental Health Systems Act of 1980, which at the time, was landmark legislation in mental health care policy.
When the Carter’s left the White House, Mrs. Carter’s advocacy would continue. In 1985, she hosted the first Rosalynn Carter Symposium on Mental health Policy, Stigma and the Mentally Ill,” and in 1991 she would establish the Carter Center Mental Health Program, which works to promote awareness about mental health issues, inform public policy, achieve equity for mental health care comparable to other health care, and reduce stigma and discrimination against those with mental illnesses.
As one of the nation’s leading metal health advocates, Mrs. Carter’s lasting legacy will be breaking down barriers as well as the stigma surrounding mental health illness.
The thoughts and prayers of all of us at the Bowen Center are with President Carter, the entire Carter family, and the millions of people around the world have benefited from Mrs. Carter’s advocacy to improve the quality of their lives.
Patricia C. Jordan
The Emma L. Bowen Community Service Center provides accessible mental health, addiction treatment, and supportive services to the Harlem community and beyond. A 501(c)(3) nonprofit community-based organization established in 1986, the Bowen Center is licensed by the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, New York State Office of Mental Health, NYS Office of Addiction Services and Supports (OASAS), and New York State Department of Education.