COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL) – Rosalynn Carter’s impact spreads far beyond Plains and the state of Georgia. The Former First lady was a driving force as she worked to create more access and remove the stigma around mental health.

Over five decades Rosalynn Carter put mental health at the forefront. Some would say she was before her time. The Former First Lady left behind a lasting impact that will carry on for generations.

Dating back to the 1970’s when President Jimmy Carter was campaigning for the Georgia Governor’s Office, Rosalynn started a movement that paved the way for mental health today.

“I worked on stigma and tried to overcome stigma, because it holds back progress in the field. People don’t get help because of stigma.”

Rosalynn Carter, Former First Lady

When the Carter’s moved to the white house, Rosalynn was named honorary chair of the President’s Commission on Mental Health in February of 1971 and that was just the beginning.

“I want my mental health work to carry on, even after there is no more stigma. Which I’m not sure will come in my lifetime but I hope it will. But even when we don’t have stigma to work on there’s always going to have to be a lobby to get the services that we need.”

Rosalynn Carter, Former First Lady

She did just that. Twice testifying before congress to expand mental health services.
In1994, Rosalynn pushed for coverage and benefits in the national health care reform plan.

“We have a great opportunity to change things forever, for everyone with mental illness. The solutions are truly within our reach, we can overcome stigma and we can make services available to all who need them and offer every individual the chance to create a happy fulfilling future.”

Rosalynn Carter, Former First Lady

With the guidance of Rosalynn Carter, the Carter Center’s Mental Health Program launched a School-based Behavioral Health Initiative in Georgia. The goal is to make access to mental health available for all ages, in all schools as common as school lunches.

“It’s been a good life and I’ve been blessed to serve as First Lady of the United States. Having the ability then and all of my life since to use the influence that came with the position to give a voice to those who may be powerless and to persuade the powerful to listen. And to strive to achieve in the words of Robert Mead, who became my friend because of my mental health career. A society that is humanized, whose success is measured by the care we show for our most vulnerable citizens.”

Rosalynn Carter, Former First Lady

Rosalynn Carter was a big part in making insurance cover mental illness, that is extremely prevalent today.

The First Lady passed away on November 19th, 2023. She was 96-years-old.