World Mental Health Coalition Statement on the Two APA’s ‘Apologies’ for Racism

In 2021, in rapid succession, the “two APA’s”—the American Psychiatric Association and the American Psychological Association—respectively published “APA’s Apology to Black, Indigenous and People of Color for Its Support of Structural Racism in Psychiatry” (January 18, 2021) and “APA Apologizes for Longstanding Contributions to Systemic Racism” (October 29, 2021).

Perhaps it was a recognition on the part of these mental health associations how persistently and pervasively they are a contribution to racism rather than an antidote, and harmed rather than helped certain vulnerable populations.  Unless there are more signs of change, their apology for racism serves only as an apology of racism, through the presumption that it can glean over centuries of human rights violations with a halfhearted apology and move on—and only after massive societal pressure, as has happened through the Black Lives Matter movement of 2020.

Indeed, soon after these “apologies”, the Association of Black Psychologists issued the statement: “The [psychological] APA’s apology and resolution failed to rise to honesty and believability in both semantics and pragmatics in the same way that the Association ‘failed in its role leading the discipline of psychology.’”

The World Mental Health Coalition (WMHC), formed in response to the [psychiatric] APA’s “failure in societal leadership” when it supported a recent racist president by interfering with the First Amendment rights of all psychiatrists and, by extension, all mental health professionals in the public sphere.  We support the Association of Black Psychologists (ABPsi) statement and join ABPsi in solidarity by taking on a different societal leadership role that the repeatedly failed APA’s have done.

We do so by declaring that a resolution of the problems of our society and of humankind cannot occur at this time without a resolution of our cultural disorder (psychological disorder) called racism and white supremacy.  We declare that the institutions and practices that led humanity’s course of self-annihilation—now reaching the proportions of collective suicide through global economic exploitation, military campaigns, and climate injustice—cannot be the source of its solutions.  This is a task that WMHC takes on, in declaring 2022 a year when it will actively seek to demonstrate what a mental health association can and should do to help heal society’s ills, not to contribute to—or worse, take advantage of—them.

WMHC welcomes to its Advisory and Executive Boards societal leaders from the Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities of the world this year specifically for their abilities to transform our organization and our world into one that supports all people, planet, and prosperity without leaving anyone behind.

Bandy X. Lee, M.D., M.Div.

Kevin Washington, Ph.D.

Susan Cortilet-Jones, L.M.H.C.