This has been an intense week for APA as a whole and I wanted to let you know what the APA has been doing to advocate for our patients against the stigmatizing language that has been in the public discourse lately. On Monday, we issued a press release concerned about the senseless loss of life from gun violence and the misplaced blame on individuals with mental illness and the repercussions of this language. This message was picked up by media outlets in Philadelphia, Denver and across the country. Our message generated significant engagement on all our social media channels. The initial Facebook and Twitter posts of the statement were seen by 80,000 people, with many thousands more reached by weeks end.
On Wednesday, we joined six other medical organizations (American College of Physicians, American Academy of Family Physicians, American Academy of Pediatrics, American College of Surgeons, American Medical Association, and the American Public Health Association), in the release of a Call to Action on Firearm-Related Injury and Death in the United States. You may recall in 2015, several of our organizations joined the American Bar Association in a call to action to address firearm injury as a public health threat. Four years later, firearm-related injury remains a problem of epidemic proportions in the United States, demanding immediate and sustained intervention. Since the 2015 call to action, there have been too many firearm-related mass murders. In 2017, the United States has reached a 20-year high according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The leadership of six of the nation’s largest physician professional societies, whose memberships include 731,000 U.S. physicians, have reiterated our commitment to finding solutions and call for policies to reduce firearm injuries and deaths.
Also on Wednesday, I represented APA on CNN disputing the claim that mental illnesses causes mass shootings. During the interview I reinforced that individuals with mental illness are more likely to be victims of violence than committing violent acts themselves. I also called on Congress and the Administration to pass legislation to address this public health crisis, such as requiring criminal background checks.
APA will continue to advocate for de-stigmatization of mental illness and ensure that our patients are not used as scapegoats in this larger debate over gun violence.
Saul Levin, MD, MPA, FRCP-E, FRCPsych
CEO and Medical Director
American Psychiatric Association