Shocking images of senseless acts of violence in our nation have dominated the news in recent weeks and left all of us reeling. Deaths of young black men at the hands of police officers and retaliatory acts of violence against police have heightened an atmosphere of intense racial tension. This has been compounded by an act of terrorism against the LGBT and Latino communities.
APA has been active on multiple fronts in responding to these events. These recent efforts build on many years of work applying the science and discipline of psychology to help solve the problems of racism, anti-LGBT discrimination and gun violence, as well as to advocate for more effective, unbiased policing.
In response to the most recent series of incidents, APA has:
- Offered support to state psychological associations and communities in crisis with on-the-ground assistance through our Disaster Resource and Public Education networks.
- Informed the media and the public about psychological research findings and the understanding of racial trauma in response to violence, evidence-based community policing and public responses to terrorism.
- Provided direct resources to individuals and families trying to cope with the psychological aftermath of violence, including Responding to the Tragedy in Orlando: Helpful Responses for LGBTQ People and Allies and Racial Trauma is Real: The Impact of Police Shootings on African Americans.
- Pressed for legislative responses and solutions through congressional testimony, Capitol Hill briefings and grassroots advocacy.
A selected list of our communications is listed at the end of this letter.
For many years, APA has been engaged in violence prevention initiatives. A comprehensive list is available on the website at www.apa.org/about/gr/issues/violence/index.aspx.
APA has also been engaged in prevention initiatives focusing on discrimination and racism, including this 2012 Presidential Task Force report: Dual Pathways to a Better America: Preventing Discrimination and Promoting Diversity.
Our annual Stress in America survey this year examined the impact of discrimination on mental and physical health. It found that nearly half of U.S. adults report they have experienced a major form of unfair treatment or discrimination, including being unfairly questioned or threatened by police, being fired or passed over for promotion or treated unfairly when receiving health care.
We have also provided testimony regarding the need for evidence-based policing and against the recent militarization of police departments:
- APA Written Statement of Gwendolyn Puryear Keita, PhD, for President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing (Feb. 17, 2015)
- Gwendolyn Puryear Keita, PhD, Submits Testimony on Militarization of Police Forces (Sept. 9, 2014)
- Written Statement of the American Psychological Association at a Hearing “The State of Civil and Human Rights in the United States” before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights (December 9, 2014)
Call to Action
In times like these, we often wonder what we can do individually to make a difference. Please share these resources with colleagues, clients, family and friends. If you are attending the convention next week, you’ll find numerous town hall meetings, symposia, discussion hours and plenaries on racism, violence prevention, community policing and more, where you can learn how to be engaged in finding solutions.
Beyond that, I encourage you to volunteer with local charitable agencies or provide pro bono services as a way of giving back to your community. You may be aware of local groups that would welcome your help. Or you can connect with the APA Disaster Resource Network (email Elizabeth Lewan at firstname.lastname@example.org for information) or Give an Hour (GAH), a national organization that currently matches psychologists and other mental health providers with military personnel and their families in need of treatment (www.giveanhour.org). GAH is planning to extend its mission to reach the broader community in the near future.
When all of us decide this cycle of violence must end, we can make a difference. Please join me in these efforts.
With my best regards,
Susan H McDaniel PhD
2016 President, American Psychological Association