Rosalynn Carter recognized by WHO for mental health advocacy

Former first lady Rosalynn Carter has been a leading advocate for mental health and substance use treatment for more than 50 years. 

On Monday, the 75th assembly of the World Health Organisation recognized her lifetime achievement when WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros presented Carter with an Award for Global Health. Carter was one of three people honored on Monday. 

Her grandson and Carter Center Board of Trustees Chairperson, Jason J. Carter, accepted the award on her behalf. Jason Carter read a letter from Rosalynn Carter:

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"The Director-General’s award for global health is especially meaningful to me in light of the Carter Center’s long partnership with WHO to eradicate debilitating neglected tropical diseases and to promote the inclusion of mental health as an integral part of overall well-being," Jason Carter said. "My hope is that this is the moment when all nations will make behavioral health a priority and create quality systems of care that are equitably delivered. I’ve been waiting a long time to see this happen. I urge all of you attending to use your influence and talent to ensure that it does."

Jason Carter remarked on when Rosalynn Carter first addressed the WHO in May of 1979. She stated health is a human right and called attention to mental health as a crucial component of a person's overall well-being.

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Her advocacy dates back to 1971 when Jimmy Carter was Georgia's governor. She served as a member of the Governor’s Commission to Improve Services for Mentally and Emotionally Handicapped Georgians. 

She testified before Congress prior to the passage of the Mental Health Systems Act, which was signed into law in October 1980. The law outlined rights for mental health patients to receive the protection and services they require and placed emphasis on the mental health needs of minority populations.

She established the Carter Center Mental Health Program in 1991 and later launched the Rosalynn Carter Georgia Mental Health Forum, which addresses mental health policy issues in Georgia. In 2018, Rosalynn Carter directed the program to launch a school-based initiative to increase access of mental health services in schools. 

Carter, 93, lives in Plains, Georgia, with her husband, former president Jimmy Carter

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