Under the leadership of former First Lady Rosalynn Carter, a long-standing champion for the rights of people with mental illnesses, the Carter Center's Mental Health Program 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.
How Common are Mental Illnesses?
Mental illnesses are among the most common health conditions in the United States and around the world. One in four Americans will experience a diagnosable mental illness in a given year.
Even the most serious mental health conditions can be treated, however, allowing people to better contribute to their families and communities.
The Mental Health Program uses the Center's convening power to bring together health leaders and organizations to discuss important issues facing mental health care systems nationwide during the annual Rosalynn Carter Symposium on Mental Health Policy and through our Primary Care Initiative. At the state level, the Center convenes the annual Rosalynn Carter Georgia Mental Health Forum.
The Center also works with key partners at the government and community levels to help build sustainable mental health care infrastructure in severely impaired environments: in the state of Georgia following the state's lawsuit for civil rights violations within the state hospitals and in Liberia following a brutal 14-year civil war.
In addition, as part of an international effort to reduce stigma and discrimination, the Rosalynn Carter Fellowships for Mental Health Journalism provide stipends to journalists from the United States and Colombia — and previously in Romania, South Africa, and New Zealand — to report on topics related to mental health or mental illnesses. The fellowships are developing a cadre of better informed print and electronic journalists who more accurately report information and influence their peers to do the same.
Results and Impact
- Mrs. Carter played a key role in the passage of the Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008, which ensures that mental illnesses are covered by insurance at parity with other illnesses.
- Working with the Liberian government, the Center has helped to create a corps of about 150 locally trained and credentialed mental health clinicians now serving all 15 counties in the country.
- Since the Rosalynn Carter Fellowships for Mental Health Journalism were established in 1996, fellows have produced more than 1,400 stories, documentaries, books, and other works during and after their fellowship year. Their projects have garnered an Emmy, nominations for the Pulitzer Prize, and other awards.
- Since 1985, the annual Rosalynn Carter Symposium on Mental Health Policy has brought together national leaders in mental health to focus and coordinate their efforts on issues of common concern and recommend action steps to move an agenda forward.