December 1, 2023
Rosalynn Carter’s legacy in mental health: a call to respect her perspective

As the world mourns the passing of former First Lady Rosalynn Carter, we look back at the incredible mark she left on the country as a tireless advocate for mental health awareness. He saw the importance of raising awareness and modernizing mental health care during his 50 years of advocacy. As we grapple with the mental health epidemic that continues to impact our nation, it is important to reflect on Mrs. Carter’s efforts in implementing our commitment in advocating for immediate solutions and access to basic mental health resources.

While serving as First Lady, Mrs. Carter proved to be ahead of her time as an outspoken advocate for mental health awareness and reform, revolutionizing the role of First Lady. In 1977, he formed the Presidential Commission on Mental Health, which laid important policy foundations for improved access to mental health services and increased awareness of mental health. Mrs. Carter’s vigorous efforts to destigmatize mental illnesses encouraged open dialogue in an effort to create an environment that allowed many people to seek help without fear and her emphasis on the equality of mental health and physical health. Allowed them to break down barriers to gain access. to take care.

Looking at the current times, we find ourselves facing an ongoing mental health crisis, driven by the continued impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the rapid increase in the influence of social media on our youth, and many other factors . The pandemic has increased stressors like social isolation, economic uncertainty, and grief, all of which can impact mental health. Social media has added to this, given its increased use amid social distancing, allowing many young people to rely on connections without face-to-face interaction.

The Surgeon General’s advisory states that teens who spend more than 3 hours a day on social media experience double the risk of depression and anxiety. The massive increase in anxiety, depression, and other mental illnesses leading to a mental health epidemic is rampant in the public health today, without adequate access to the resources we need.

Despite increased advocacy efforts since the beginning of the pandemic, access to basic mental health care remains a challenge. Mental health services remain inadequate amid a shortage of health care professionals. About 30% of adults in need of treatment and care were unable to access it. The stigma surrounding mental health, despite improvements, continues to prevent individuals from seeking the help they deserve. Honoring Rosalynn Carter’s legacy, we must refocus our efforts to continue advocating for mental health care.

To expand access to care, we can consider innovative solutions both inside and outside our system. One possible example are evidence-based digital technologies, apps, and therapeutics that are often enhanced by AI. The digital age presents an opportunity to use technology to our advantage in enhancing care through telehealth services, online groups, and health apps. Services for people who are unable to access traditional personal services. This is especially important in high-risk populations and rural areas.

Additionally, it is important to focus on preventive strategies. Expanding social emotional learning and mental wellness curriculum within our education systems in K-12 schools and colleges is key to proactively reducing mental health risk and promoting a basic understanding of this important component of overall health. Initiatives like Emory University’s Cognitive-Based Compassion Program work to give healthcare providers, teachers, and parents strategies and tools to reduce the risk of burnout and promote well-being. Additionally, encouraging increased social-emotional connections at school and work may also reduce the risk of poor mental health. The Surgeon General recommends restricting technology use among children at in-person gatherings to encourage their social bonds and promote personal interactions.

Rosalynn Carter’s continued dedication to advocating for mental health awareness has left a lasting legacy, reminding us that prioritizing the mental well-being of our nation’s population is one of the most important tasks after the pandemic. Their examples provide a guiding light to inspire us to eliminate existing challenges in mental health care and support a reformed, accessible system. By working to create mental health initiatives, break stigmas, and embrace a compassionate environment, we can properly honor Rosalynn Carter and strive for a healthier future.

Megha Gupta, BA (UCLA), journalist, co-authored this article.

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