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Former First Lady discusses mental illness

Former First Lady Rosalynn Carter speaks at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Muse
Lindsey Smith
Michigan Radio
Former First Lady Rosalynn Carter speaks at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum Tuesday.

Rosalynn Carter is in Grand Rapids raising awareness of mental illness. She's promoting her new book about how to end what she calls a "national mental health care crisis."

1 in 4 Americans 18 and older suffer with a mental health ailment. The former first lady spoke to a crowd in at the Ford Museum Tuesday about her latest book - Within Our Reach: Ending the Mental Health Crisis.

Susan Meekhof listened intently. Having dealt with mental illness herself, Meekhof now volunteers at a peer-support group in Grand Rapids. She says friends have told her, "When I go to the hospital, the regular hospital, all my friends I tell them come a visit me.' I go to the psychiatric ward, well don't tell a soul.' And it's like, why are we doing that? We need support wherever we are when we're under the weather," Meekhof said. The non-profit group, Recovery Academy, has attracted around 70 members since it was founded two years ago.

Meekhof says the former first lady's four decades of advocacy is empowering for those who have been touched by mental illness.

Though Carter says the government is doing a better job of taking care of veterans with post-traumatic-stress-disorder, the former first lady says more needs to be done to support programs that help everyone dealing with mental illness. "You can get all the money you want for jails and prisons. Jails and prisons are the largest mental institutions in the country. You can't get money for mental health programs. I get very frustrated about that," Carter said. This is her second book on the topic.

Lindsey Smith helps lead the station'sAmplify Team. She previously served as Michigan Public's Morning News Editor, Investigative Reporter and West Michigan Reporter.