Coupling Passion with Compassion in the Life of Rosalynn Carter and Ourselves

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Rosalynn Carter’s life can serve as an example to us all.

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PSYCHIATRIC VIEWS ON THE DAILY NEWS

Ever since Rosalynn Carter died at the age of 96 on November 19th, I wondered whether I should do a eulogy about her. It has been a rarity for me to do one on someone other than a psychiatrist, such as when I did 2 on Robin Williams, and never one on a politician. But Rosalynn Carter was not a politician, just married to one, President Jimmy Carter. Perhaps she is best described as a humanitarian, someone who was an advocate for those with mental disturbances.

Another reservation I had was how well her decades of mental health advocacy has already been covered by the media. Why would another tribute be needed? She fought stigma starting way back in the 1970s. The Carter Center’s Mental Health Program led the way. One key area focused on was journalism, which included the Rosalynn Carter Fellowship for Mental Health Journalism. Another was the annual Rosalynn Carter Symposium on Mental Health Policy from 1985-2016.

However, I never did get to writing a formal eulogy or anything about her until her funeral service on Tuesday, November 28th. I watched some of it intermittently. Fortunately, I caught the brief speech by the Carters’ personal pastor, Tony Lowden. He summarized her life with something like:

Passion Linked With Compassion

How insightful and worth widespread adoption! Passion by itself can be productive or destructive. Just look at the passion being exhibited in all the wars and conflicts going on around the world. Compassion points passion in the right direction.

In our current epidemic of burnout, those of us in psychiatry are in danger of losing both our passion and compassion in the process. With the continuing system constraints on our healing potential, our work can start to feel like something to get through, a day at the mental health care factory. Rosalynn Carter never seemed to lose her passion and compassion until her late life illness. May we keep her in mind and give our thanks to her by retaining our own.

Dr Moffic is an award-winning psychiatrist who specialized in the cultural and ethical aspects of psychiatry, and is now in retirement and refirement as a private pro bono community psychiatrist. A prolific writer and speaker, he has done a weekday column titled “Psychiatric Views on the Daily News” and a weekly video, “Psychiatry & Society,” since the COVID-19 pandemic emerged. He was chosen to receive the 2024 Abraham Halpern Humanitarian Award from the American Association for Social Psychiatry. Previously, he received the Administrative Award in 2016 from the American Psychiatric Association, the one-time designation of being a Hero of Public Psychiatry from the Speaker of the Assembly of the APA in 2002, and the Exemplary Psychiatrist Award from the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill in 1991. He is an advocate and activist for mental health issues related to climate instability, physician burnout, and xenophobia. He is now editing the final book in a 4-volume series on religions and psychiatry for Springer: Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, Christianity, and now The Eastern Religions, and Spirituality. He serves on the Editorial Board of Psychiatric Times.

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