JUNE 16, 2020 - The American Psychiatric Association (APA) and the National Medical Association (NMA) stand together in expressing our condolences and heartfelt sympathy to the family of George Floyd. His murder was a senseless act of violence that we forcefully condemn.
Systemic racism is evident in America, as seen by police violence against Black Americans, including young children (Tamir Rice), those inside their own homes (Breonna Taylor), those shot in the back (Rayshard Brooks), as well as others involved in harmless acts (Eric Garner). Systemic racism is also apparent in the health disparities in Black communities as evidenced by their much higher mortality rates from COVID-19. We cannot and will not accept this.
As organizations whose members care for the underserved and ethnic minority patients, both the APA and NMA value and appreciate every life, seek to prevent harm, improve health outcomes, and eliminate senseless loss of life. Our professional credibility is grounded in ensuring that every person, regardless of their skin color, is respected and valued. We stand with the Black community and others who have been marginalized by police, the health care system, and society.
We join the peaceful protests against racial injustice. We call for an end to all forms of discrimination. We pledge an enduring commitment to improving the lives of those marginalized. We commit to the establishment of fairness in the implementation of government and law enforcement power. These fundamental tenants of respect for human life are embodied in the oath that we all took as physician leaders.
The problems caused by the senseless deaths of Black Americans by police violence and COVID-19 are based on institutionally ingrained processes born of intolerance. This results in enormous pain for many Americans – including our patients and our colleagues. We must do more than speak out in the moment, we must act to ensure that systemic racism is exposed and eliminated throughout our country and its institutions.
We recognize that not all law enforcement is intolerant, and many have been horrified by these tragedies and have joined protesters for justice. We call on our police officers to keep the peace without brutality. Law enforcement and our leaders must realize that militarized responses to peaceful civil disobedience begets distrust and acrimony. America needs effective leadership to understand, identify and ameliorate racism in all forms throughout the United States; and it needs it right now.
We call for:
- More effective dialogue to address actions to end institutionalized racism, police brutality, and the social, economic and health disparities.
- Focusing police education on de-escalation techniques rather than maneuvers that promote excessive violence.
- Adoption of programs at the local level to create harmony between the police and the community.
- Mandating access to and use of mental health crisis intervention teams (CIT) for all police departments.
- Requiring effective racial sensitivity and implicit bias training for all police departments.
- Recognizing the trauma caused by racism and abuses of power.
- Expanding access to mental health care for victims of race-based trauma.
- A health care system where access to medical care is not dependent upon skin color, wealth, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or the neighborhood where one lives.
American Psychiatric Association
The American Psychiatric Association, founded in 1844, is the oldest medical association in the country. The APA is also the largest psychiatric association in the world with more than 38,800 physician members specializing in the diagnosis, treatment, prevention and research of mental illnesses. APA’s vision is to ensure access to quality psychiatric diagnosis and treatment. For more information please visit www.psychiatry.org.
National Medical Association
The National Medical Association is the collective voice of African American physicians and the leading force for parity and justice in medicine. The NMA is the oldest organization of African American professionals in America representing African American physicians and the patients we serve in the United States and its territories.
Oliver T. Brooks, MD
President, National Medical Association
Jeffrey L. Geller, M.D., M.P.H.
President, American Psychiatric Association