The Logo of The Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta - Purple Crest with Bishop's Mitre

Christ Church Parishioner Named Rosalynn Carter Fellow for Mental Health Journalism

Aug 16, 2023

MACON — Christ Church Macon parishioner Evey Wilson Wetherbee said she was thrilled and honored to learn she had been awarded a 2023-2024 Rosalynn Carter Fellow for Mental Health Journalism.

“It really is just a huge honor,” Wetherbee said. “I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished, but I’m still growing. And to be given this opportunity, it just reminds me that I’m on the right path, doing this work.”

Wetherbee, who is Mercer University Assistant Professor of Practice in the Center for Collaborative Journalism, is one of only nine U.S. journalists to receive the honor this year. Wetherbee says this fellowship will enable her to dig deeper into the mental health aspects of her investigations. Her Fellowship also comes with a $10,000 stipend  from the Benjamin von Sternenfels Rosenthal Grant for Mental Health Investigative Journalism in partnership with Reveal from the Center for Investigative Reporting.

Wetherbee was tapped for the fellowship for her investigative reporting about corruption at a Georgia prison. Her investigations led to the creation of the true-crime podcast Prison Town. For the podcast, Wetherbee worked with reporting partner Jessica Szilagyi to tell a complex and compelling tale of murder, incarceration, and corruption.

The subject of Wetherbee’s year-long fellowship will be reporting on the mental health crisis in Georgia’s prisons. Her work will support former First Lady Rosalynn Carter’s longtime effort to reduce the stigma of mental health. She will also participate in intensive training with leading mental health and journalism experts.

In addition to being a professor, Carter Center Fellow, and podcaster, Wetherbee is an Emmy-nominated filmmaker. She directed and produced a 2021 investigative documentary about water pollution called Saving Juliette. The film about coal ash pollution in Juliette, Georgia won multiple awards, including the Best Short Documentary at the 2022 American Conservation Film Festival. The film was a finalist for the Livingston Award in local reporting and is available for viewing on

Wetherbee, her husband Jonathan and their two children attend Christ Church Episcopal in Macon. Jonathan Wetherbee works at UPS but is also interested in journalism and posts on The Context.

The following responses from an interview with Wetherbee have been edited for clarity and length.

“Christ Church means a lot to us because I was actually baptized there and so it’s exciting to have my kids to be baptized there and grow up in that Church. My grandmother attended Christ Church, so I grew up  visiting on holidays, but I lived in Atlanta, so a lot of my formative memories were at Christ Church were of cousins getting married there and  it’s just fun to have my kids grew up in an environment that was very formative for me.”

“My mother is Catholic, and my dad was Episcopal and so we kind of went back and forth and went to Catholic school, but we have really loved the Episcopal faith for the tradition but also, I think the commitment to social justice work as well.”

“[Christ Church Rector, The Rev.] Cynthia [Knapp] really made us feel welcomed and she’s really cultivated this community of young families at Christ Church, so I have a lot of people that knew my grandmother and my aunt also goes to Christ Church so a lot of people that knew our family and then also now there’s a lot of young families that go there as well.

“I was raised between Catholic and Episcopal, and I have always really loved that while they are similar in the Episcopal Church women could hold leadership roles. It is a true living out of equality in a lot of ways and really trying to take what you learn  from the Bible and from the gospel but living it out in a way that is practical, I think. So, while there are similarities, I think I’ve always felt more comfortable and at home in Episcopal churches.

“My husband comes from a very different religious upbringing so it’s exciting that he too feels at home in Christ Church. He was raised with a Baptist upbringing and a Buddhist upbringing. So, we have a few different religions, and  you get married and you’re like how do I where can we find a place that all of the things that we believe can come together and find time to really focus on our relationship with God but also create a community of people that are dedicated to the same thing.

Faith and Work

“I think that my faith does inform the work that I do. I think it’s always very centering for me to go to go to church to take the time to carve out time for my relationship with God and that allows me kind of refuels me to be able to do the work that I want to do.

I just approach everything with an open mind. I approach every story as each person is the expert in their own life and they deserve that respect in that way. I tend to work on stories about larger systems and the human impact, so I try to find the specific cases that illustrate what happens when the system isn’t working quite right looking at larger trends but trying to find the most human approach to those stories. I think that’s just realizing that we should all be equal, and we should all be prioritized in this life.

In the Prison Town podcast, we kept coming very close to talking about mental health, but it wasn’t quite relevant for that story. But because that reporting illustrated so many issues that were around mental health, I’m already working on how to talk about how those mental health issues are handled within inside the Georgia Department of Corrections. Some of my will also include the justice system. There are mental health diversion courts, there are certain people who might have to be sent somewhere so it can be decided if they are competent for trial. There are all of those little storylines that I’m interested in exploring to figure out what I’m going to report.

A lot of the time I talk to people whose loved ones are incarcerated or people who recently got out and it is difficult to have a conversation with someone who is impacted by that system who doesn’t speak about some kind of mental health issue.

There’s a myriad of different experiences right but I had someone share that when they got out, they were at a Dairy Queen and a kid ran from the bathroom and it was really stressful for them because nobody runs in prison. So, there are all of these mental health impacts by the system that I’m really interested in exploring.

I’m at the beginning of the story and it took about a year to figure out what my story was with the last project.

I am lucky that because I teach at Mercer I have a lot of freedom about what I get to report on so I get to really take time to dive into it but I think that this will be a more historical story explaining how a lot of things that used to be handled at Central State Hospital in Milledgeville and the resources that were available. And that as they started moving people away from that institution deciding that having community resources would be better what happened to that population.

I had a really interesting interview with a defense attorney who was talking about how a large population of people from Central State stayed in Baldwin County and how that impacted things there. I’ve spoken with a chaplain who knew somebody who had been institutionalized at Central State Hospital for most of their life and when they were no longer allowed to be there became homeless. So I don’t yet know for sure but my theory is that Central State Hospital used to be the hub for all those resources and now a lot of those resources are provided by the church and that the Department of Corrections, and county jails have become some of the biggest mental health providers in Georgia if not the biggest mental health providers in Georgia.

Central State had some really beautiful buildings, and the decay of those buildings almost are emblematic of this system of mental health – the way it was prioritized and maybe it isn’t so much now. There’re still some buildings that are operating and have forensic beds for inmates who need to be restored to competency to be able to sit trial but it’s very different now than it was. Douglas Skelton, the fellow who Jimmy Carter when he was governor brought in to reform the state’s mental health program, actually reached out to me and I’m supposed to get lunch with him. He created the regional hospitals which are actually pretty amazing because now there’s all these different regional hospitals which are really interesting. I’m really just backgrounding and trying to interview as many people as possible to figure out the trends and the stories that illustrate them. I spoke with someone whose retirement job is a public defender whose wife was a warden at multiple prisons for decades and he said I think she’ll talk to you so I’m hoping she will.

The Carter Fellowship

“The issues of mental health impact so many things and also there’s so much taboo around it that there shouldn’t be but these resources should be available so I’m also looking at  who’s providing the resources their licensing and credentials how the system should look if people were able to access their resources and then seeing like if things do work like a diversion court maybe that’s a great example of a solution um but also there are  things that I’ve heard about that are not working like trying to figure out the wait time for a bed if you are an inmate who needs to be restored to competency how long that wait time is for a mental health hospital that can help you. Today someone told me seven months.

But the reason I’m particularly excited about this fellowship is because there’s a lot of mentorship involved. I started my career as a photojournalist and traditionally photographers go out with journalists, and they illustrate the story they’re not necessarily involved in the reporting process as much, so I was really trained to illustrate stories. I have really had to learn how to become this investigative reporter. It’s been fun to work on these stories.

I’m very excited for this fellowship because I get to be paired with people that are very good at what they do and that are also experts in all health areas that can train me and to just teach me how to talk about it in a way that is beneficial  and that is healthy to further the conversation around how we discuss mental health but also to mentor me as a journalist. I’m so very excited about these opportunities.

I think I’m just a reporter in my bones and I’m incredibly curious about things. If there’s information that exists I wanna find it. It’s just in the way that I was designed. The teaching has really afforded me the time to be able to work on a project like this because I don’t know that there is a journalism employer that can do an investigation with me for two years. It’s really fun here and I’m immensely grateful for the capacity to spend the time to really just go under the radar and get something done.”

Don Plummer is the beat reporter for The Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta. If you have story ideas, please reach out to Don.

“Sharing the heartbeat of the diocese.”

Phone: 770-695-6260