Rosalynn Carter, a former first lady who became a pioneer for access to mental health care, died on Sunday. She was 96.
“Rosalynn was my equal partner in everything I ever accomplished,” President Carter said. “She gave me wise guidance and encouragement when I needed it. As long as Rosalynn was in the world, I always knew somebody loved and supported me.”
The two were married for 77 years and had four children: Jack, Chip, Jeff, and Amy. The two have 11 surviving grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren.
“Besides being a loving mother and extraordinary First Lady, my mother was a great humanitarian in her own right,” Chip Carter said in a statement. “Her life of service and compassion was an example for all Americans. She will be sorely missed not only by our family but by the many people who have better mental health care and access to resources for caregiving today.”
Carter prioritized mental health in her role as the First Lady of Georgia, carrying that activism into her tenure as U.S. First Lady. In her first interview as First Lady, Carter made clear her desire to remove the stigma surrounding mental health.
“For every person who needs mental health care to be able to receive it close to his home, and to remove the stigma from mental health care so people will be free to talk about it and seek help,” she told The New York Times in 1977. “It's been taboo for so long to admit you had a mental health problem.”
After her husband left the White House, the two co-founded the Carter Center, a nonprofit dedicated to advancing human rights. She continued her mental health advocacy throughout the rest of her life, prioritizing it alongside caregiving through the launch of the Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregivers at her alma mater, Georgia Southwestern State University.