Plains, Georgia native, Eleanor Rosalynn Carter, served as First Lady of Georgia from 1971 to 1975. During this period, she was an instrumental part of the Governor’s Commission to Improve Services to the Mentally and Emotionally Handicapped.
She went on to serve as First Lady of the United States between 1977 and 1981. An early pioneer of mental health advocacy, Mrs. Carter served as Honorary Chairperson of the President’s Commission on Mental Health from 1977 to 1978. Her work was transformative in passing the Mental Health Systems Act of 1980.
She spearheaded the Rosalynn Carter Symposium on Mental Health Policy in 1985, with the goal of bridging together professionals working in mental health across the nation for collaboration on crucial issues. Hosted annually for 32 years at The Carter Center’s Atlanta home, the effort brought focus to matters such as child and elder health, caregiver coping, strategies for funding mental health research and services, mental health treatment in primary care settings, and, importantly, ending the stigma of mental illness.
In 1996, she created the Georgia Mental Health Forum with the goal of developing a stronger statewide system for mental health care. The same year, the Rosalynn Carter Fellowships for Mental Health Journalism began supporting efforts journalists of nationally and internationally who are making a positive impact toward fighting the stigma of mental illness.
Along with establishing the Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregivers, she co-authored a book with Susan Golant in 1994 titled, “Helping Yourself Help Others: A Book for Caregivers”. In 1998, they collaborated again on “Helping Someone with Mental Illness: A Compassionate Guide for Family, Friends, and Caregivers”. In 2010, she joined Golant and Kathryn Cade to publish “Within Our Reach: Ending the Mental Health Crisis” to help advance equity for mental health treatment in our current systems.
Awards and honors for her rich and sustained work, include:
- 2018 Bill Foege Global Health Award
- Volunteer of the Decade Award from the National Mental Health Association
- Dorothea Dix Award from the Mental Illness Foundation
- Nathan S. Kline Medal of Merit from the International Committee Against Mental Illness
- Rhoda and Bernard Sarnat International Prize in Mental Health from the Institute of Medicine
- United States Surgeon General’s Medallion
- Induction into the National Women’s Hall of Fame
- Presidential Medal of Freedom
- Honorary Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association
A Carter Center press release, shared that Mrs. Carter “died peacefully, with her family by her side” at her home in Plains today at 2:10 p.m.
She is survived by President Carter, their four children, 11 grandchildren, and 14 great-grandchildren and joins her grandson who passed in 2015.
Follow the developing schedule of memorial events and funeral information, here.