Tag Archives: Advocacy

Advocacy in the Wake of National Tragedy

Quite some time has passed since the tragedies in Orlando, St. Paul, and Baton Rouge.  All of these incidents included violence toward traditionally marginalized groups.  For those of us with privileged identities or psychological distance from the events, much of the emotional toll may seem “in the past.”  For those of us without such privilege, however, the emotional labor has not ceased.  We write this post with the belief that, if we are to successfully ward off the threat of callousness and acceptance of unthinkable violence, we must meet our emotional expenditure with direct action.

Much has been written already on the complex feelings many of us within APAGS have experienced in the wake of the Orlando shooting (e.g. here and here) as well as the shooting of unarmed black men in St. Paul and Baton Rouge (see here).  The specific identities of those targeted marks these tragedies as incidents with much larger sociopolitical implications.  They represent both a deep personal trauma which must be addressed at the individual microlevel (with peers, with clients, on our listservs, within our families) as well as a national crisis that must be addressed at the systemic macrolevel.

Thus, in addition to the many resources regarding steps to be taken at interpersonal and community levels (The Community Healing Network has a great resource list, and another compiled by Skyler Jackson can be found here), in this post, we hope to provide resources regarding the legislative issues this tragedy touches upon.

Racial & Religious Discrimination

National tragedies such as Baton Rouge, St. Paul, & Orlando frequently touch upon many issues of racial and religious inequities in the U.S.; including Latinx rights, Black rights, Islamophobia, immigration reform, and racial profiling.  APA has a long legacy of opposing discrimination based on race and ethnicity (see APA’s 2001 resolution), and has taken actions on racial profiling, deportation, and immigration reform.  APA has also taken a strong stance on the need for religious freedom and tolerance (see here).  More information about policing in communities of color can also be found here.

Given APA’s strong voice on these issues, it behooves psychologists, as the 2001 resolution states, to “…speak out against racism, and take proactive steps to prevent the occurrence of intolerant or racist acts.”  To see a list of current legislative and community-based initiatives through APA you can take part in, check out APA’s ethnic minority affairs website.

Hate Crime Prevention & Gun Control Legislation

The APA strongly emphasizes primary (i.e. universal) intervention strategies to address violence, with an emphasis on multi-systemic involvement.  Strategies derived from the Task Force on the Prevention of Gun Violence , for example, focus on including mental health professionals and law enforcement in collaborative effort with one another to reduce risk of violence.  These include such things as addressing maladaptive expressions of masculinity through violence from at-risk males.

APA has also called for the expansion of funding for National Violent Death Reporting System to ensure that vital data is collected surrounding the tragic fatalities of violent acts.  If violence prevention and gun control legislation is something you are passionate about, one way to make your voice heard is through supporting “common sense” gun laws through a quick letter to congress.

LGBTQ+ Rights & Homophobia

APA has been a strong proponent of LGBTQ+ rights ever since Evelyn Hooker’s 1956 Annual Convention presentation.  In her speech, Dr. Hooker challenged the view that homosexual people were inherently less mentally healthy than their heterosexual peers (see here).  Since that time, APA has recognized that state-sponsored limits on LGBTQ+ freedoms (for example limiting basic parental, marriage, and legal recourse rights) not only dehumanize LGBTQ+ persons but also tacitly legitimize discrimination against them.

Recently, APA has been in strong favor of H.R. 3185 and S. 1858, also known as the Equality Act. As a bit of background, ‘H.R.’ stands for ‘House of Representatives’ while ‘S.’ stands for ‘Senate.’  In order to become law, a bill must be passed in both the House and the Senate, and thus often gets two separate identifying numbers (because debate and revisions occur on both the House and the Senate sides these bills often look slightly different from one another).  As of this writing, the Equality Act has been referred to the relevant subcommittees/committees in both the House and the Senate.   As such, stay tuned and take part in this and other relevant initiatives by registering for APA’s Federal Action Network (FAN).

Overall Advocacy Resources

If you are interested in the intersection between psychology and advocacy more generally, a great resource and manual has been provided here.  In addition, you can sign up to receive regular updates about APA “action alerts;” which are immediate steps you can take (often requiring less than 30 seconds) to have your voice heard on issues that you care most about.  You can sign up for such action alerts by going to: http://cqrcengage.com/apapolicy/home.  As an aside, we promise that the Federal Advocacy Network is not a ‘spam’ listserv. We’ve always received important and timely updates from the Action Network, and have heard back innumerable times from senators and representatives about letters we specifically sent through the network.

Conclusion: Stand Up!

APA itself has a strong history of advocacy in these realms.  As Amalia Corby-Edwards—Senior Legislative and Federal Affairs Officer with APA’s Public Interest Directorate—states, “APA has been lobbying on these issues for years […] going forward, we’ll likely redouble these efforts, and think about new approaches.”  As Corby-Edwards identifies, national tragedies both highlight longstanding societal problems and can hopefully serve as a catalyst for intensified legislative efforts.

As the saying goes, the “personal is political,” and relating our own experiences with larger social issues is not only therapeutic, it can help promote real change.  If you feel inspired or interested in joining like-minded advocacy peers, please consider becoming a campus representative with the Advocacy Coordinating Team by going to our homepage, http://www.apa.org/apags/governance/subcommittees/act.aspx.

Authors: Jeritt R. Tucker, Chair & Trevor Bixler, Regional Advocacy Coordinator, North Central Region, APAGS Advocacy Coordinating Team (ACT)

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in this blog post represent the exclusive views of the authors and not necessarily those of APA or APAGS.

#NotMyPresident – Anti-Racism Activism Under a Trump Presidency

Open Letter to Graduate Students in Psychology:

Protesters hold signs during a protest against the election of President-elect Donald Trump, Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2016, in downtown Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Protesters hold signs during a protest against the election of President-elect Donald Trump, Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2016, in downtown Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

On November 9, 2016, we woke up to a new era in modern American politics. Not since the presidential campaign of pro-segregation proponent George Wallace in 1968 have racial and ethnic intolerance been expressed so openly and vehemently by a presidential candidate. Donald Trump called Mexican immigrants “rapists” and “drug dealers,” questioned the impartiality of federal judge Gonzalo Curiel due to his Mexican ancestry, and called for a ban on Muslims entering the United States. He also proclaimed that African-Americans and Latinos are “living in hell,” reinforcing negative stereotypes and ignoring the vibrancy that exists in both communities. Indeed, Donald Trump has a long history of racist remarks and attitudes. Trump also repeatedly made misogynistic statements that denigrated and demeaned women, and was caught boasting about sexual assault. Despite these infractions, Donald Trump became the President-Elect of the United States.

The work of activists is needed now more than ever. As is evident from the recent wave of hate crimes across the United States, bigots are emboldened as a result of Trump’s victory, and Black and Brown lives are at great risk. The APA Ethics Code calls on us to promote the welfare and protection of the individuals and groups with whom psychologists work. The code also calls on psychologists to “respect and protect the civil and human rights” of our clients. When the welfare of our clients is jeopardized by racial discrimination, we are called to stand up and seek justice on their behalf.

With this in mind, we are calling for a national dialogue titled “#NotMyPresident – Anti-Racism Activism Under a Trump Presidency,” to take place at 5:00 p.m. CST on January 17, 2017.

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Mental Health and Immigration Detention

berks-countyThis summer, I joined psychologists and lawyers from across the Midatlantic and New York to visit the Berks County Detention Center, in Pennsylvania.  Berks is one of 108 immigration detention centers around the country run by U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and it is home to 36 families, including children of as young as two years old, who are awaiting deportation from the U.S.  The purpose of our visit, which was arranged by Human Rights First, was to review conditions in the detention center; as a doctoral student in clinical psychology, my particular interest was in understanding the mental health needs of the detainees, and the availability of qualified mental health care in the Center.

Many studies and reports have demonstrated the impact of detention on mental health, and some of these impacts were clearly visible in talking to the families at Berks.

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Living at the Intersection: Reflections on the Graduate Student Experience

Reflections of an Orthodox Jew: Entering the Real World

Guest columnist: Chaya Lieba Berger, BA, Long Island University Post

My name is Chaya Lieba Berger, and I am currently completing my first year at Long Island University Post’s Psy.D. program. I am also an Orthodox Jew.

From the moment I began graduate school, I was confronted by my religious identity. Having never before been in a school that was not specifically for Orthodox Jewish women, everything was a transition. Even my name was a challenge, as it is difficult for people who do not speak Hebrew to pronounce. I have noticed that when I introduce myself, people seem to not even hear the unfamiliar sounds, nodding politely before they erase the introduction from their minds. I have always been called by this name, and so adjusting has been an experience, and I am appreciative of my professors and classmates for the patience they have exhibited in learning it. I have also never before been in a co-ed school setting. It has been a challenge to feel comfortable discussing certain issues in a co-ed classroom, working on projects and presentations with male colleagues, and being open to becoming friends with the men in my program.

Recently, I was speaking with my mother about a non-Jewish organization I had been volunteering for and she laughed as I attempted to describe them with: “Oh, they’re normal. I mean they’re regular people. I mean they’re not religious.” When did become the other? When did the people I have spent most of my life surrounded by become different, irregular, and not normal? I am so grateful to be in a program that respects and accepts me as an observant Jew. At the same time, I have become, essentially for the first time in my experience, a minority. And being a minority can be a very “other-ing” experience. At times, the Hebrew and Yiddish expressions that are merely a part of my vocabulary remain stuck on my tongue as I search around for the appropriate English translation. At times, my experience of certain issues is swallowed by the experience of the majority. My world, a world with its very own dress code, its own music, and dating rules far different from my colleagues, has now become the “other” world.

I can say with certainty that this process, thus far, has been a learning experience. It has also, however, been a challenge, balancing my multiple identities as a student, an Orthodox Jew, a single woman, a psychological researcher, and soon, a clinician. I have come to realize that as much as one may try to separate one’s identities, it is simply unavoidable:

Wherever you go, every identity enters the room with you.

In my growth as a psychologist, I attempt to bring every part of myself with me. As I enter the real world, I am integrating an understanding of myself as the other, and I bring my other world with me.

Editor’s Note: This column is part of a series highlighting the experiences of students and professionals with diverse intersecting identities and was created by the APAGS Committee on Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity and the Committee for the Advancement of Racial and Ethnic Diversity. Are you interested in sharing about your own navigation of intersecting identities in graduate school? We would be happy to hear from you! To learn more, please contact Heather Dade.

Check out previous posts in this series:

Ian Gutierrez, APAGS Chair

An introduction from the new APAGS Chair

IanAs the new APAGS Chair, I will have the privilege of representing graduate students within the American Psychological Association beginning August 8th. By way of introduction to those of you who may not know me, I wanted to share a few thoughts and reflections in advance of the beginning of my term.

I am a very political person. I believe wholeheartedly in the power of community organizing, the necessity of labor rights, stronger protections for working people, and the critical importance of creating a more just society that offers opportunity for all, regardless of race, class, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or gender identity.

For me, becoming a psychologist necessitates being politically minded. Just look at the world we live in: The post-war order that secured peace and stability in Europe is under siege; Iraq and Syria are engulfed in intractable civil wars; and terrorism continues to claim the lives of innocent civilians around the world. At home, women still earn only three-quarters of what equally-qualified men earn; African-Americans disproportionately suffer the injustices of mass incarceration, and others find that a routine traffic stop by a police officer may have life-threatening consequences; rural and impoverished communities have been torn apart by the opioid and methamphetamine crises; many Americans remain unemployed or underemployed in the wake of the 2008 economic crisis; student debt has ensnared millions of Americans in a financial trap from which they find it impossible to escape; Americans continue to lead the Western world in gun deaths, most of them the result of suicide; and, as a result of these and other developments, racism, sexism, and xenophobia have found new political purchase in our social and cultural landscape.

Professional psychology likewise faces enormous challenges. The findings of the APA’s Independent Review (i.e., the Hoffman Report) have undermined the public’s faith in our profession’s most prominent institution. The “replication crisis” has prompted serious challenges to longstanding claims made by many research psychologists. Psychologists remain excluded from the Medicare definition of a physician, barring psychologists access to resources critical for supplying the public with quality mental health care. Despite the proven effectiveness of psychotherapy, too many Americans still lack access to the care they so desperately need.

Psychologists must be involved in finding solutions to all of these problems. Yet, for students, this can be overwhelming. “The world has its problems, but I just need to finish my dissertation.” “I am concerned about the challenges facing our profession, but right now I just need to match for internship.”  I have heard these and other similar statements many times.

Graduate school can be difficult, and many obstacles must be overcome to complete a doctorate in psychology. Believe me, I know just as well as you do. However, I strongly believe that we are living in a significant period in both our nation’s history and that of our profession. Maybe you’ve asked a parent what they did during the Summer of Love or what it felt like to see the Berlin Wall come tumbling down. I believe that great changes are taking place in our lifetimes, right now, that demand our presence and action. More importantly, they demand our skills, knowledge, passion, and talents as psychologists in training. Ask yourself: Years from now, when your family asks you what you did when the world changed in 2017, what do you imagine yourself saying? Where were you standing?

Where are you standing?

Even though there are enormous challenges facing our society and our world, I remain confident that the world of tomorrow will be better than the world of today. I have that hope because I have seen the future. The future is us. The maturity, vision, energy, and character of our generation is unparalleled, and I know that because I have had the privilege of hearing so many of you share your dreams and ideas. Already we have accomplished so much, and we’re just getting started.

As APAGS Chair, I promise to do my very best to show APA and the field of psychology the energy and promise that you bring to the table. I believe that the student voice is critical to the future of our profession and our society, and I will give everything I can to ensure that the student voice is heard. In turn, I ask that you keep bringing your energy, creativity, passion, and vision to your research, your practice, your education, your advocacy, and your activism. The future is counting on us.

I am an open book. You can follow me on Twitter at @IanAGutierrez.

Author Bio:

Ian A. Gutierrez, MA, is a graduate student at the University of Connecticut pursuing his doctorate in Clinical Psychology and the 2016-2017 Chair of the American Psychological Association of Graduate Students (APAGS). His research focuses on the development of belief systems over the life span.

Editor’s Note: Interested in becoming a part of APAGS Leadership? There are many ways to get involved!