Hello MindSite News Daily Readers. In today’s newsletter, we have a story about the American Psychological Association’s apology to communities of color for the association’s long history of promoting white supremacy. You’ll also read about a California Superior Court judge who is talking about his own mental health challenges to reduce stigma among other professionals, and how a police department in Little Rock is telling its officers that it’s OK to not feel OK – and providing help when they’re not.

Recognizing depression is common among police, Little Rock Police Department creates mental health unit

New York officer at memorial for a fallen firefighter in Brooklyn (Shutterstock)

Suicide among police officers is a long-established problem. This year, some 123 police officers have killed themselves across the country, according to a report on the website of KATV in Little Rock. The Little Rock Police Department has developed a wellness program for its officers that recognizes high stress is part of the job and focuses on prevention. The department is trying to replace unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as alcohol  and drug use, with other ways for its officers to decompress. “Being a police officer, the image that people typically portray is being a tough guy, being someone that can stand the heat,” Little Rock Police Sergeant Eric Barnes said. “We know there have to be coping mechanisms, and they need to be healthy coping mechanisms.” Now, when there’s a high-stress incident, members of the force’s wellness unit are deployed as officers come off the call. “We know that’s a critical time and we need to speak with those officers,” said Barnes, who says the department also now offers peer support groups to help officers through a traumatic experience.

The American Psychological Association issues an apology for its role in promoting racism and white supremacy

In late October, the American Psychological Association (APA) released a formal apology to communities of color for its role in hurting them by promoting systemic racism and “upholding the myth of white superiority” since its formation, according to an article on CNN.com. “Historically, groups found to score differently on assessments designed by white psychologists and normalized on white populations were deemed inferior based on those results,” the APA stated. “Such beliefs found strong support in the early 20th century among psychologists and other social scientists, particularly those involved in the eugenics movement.” Declaring that the APA had “failed in its role,” the association said that it “is profoundly sorry [and] accepts responsibility… for perpetuating systemic racism, racial discrimination and denigration of people of color.”  As part of its apology, the APA gave numerous examples of how it had harmed people of color in the past and present,  including its “ideological justification” for the brutal forced separation of an untold number of Native American children and their forced entry into remote reeducation schools. Noting that “an apology only rings true when accompanied by action,” the APA committed to helping dismantle systemic racism in the United States and working toward “reconciliation, repair, and renewal” for the longstanding harms to which it contributed.

In an effort to reduce stigma, a California judge details his own struggles with depression, anxiety

When Yolo County Superior Court Judge Tim Fall first felt numbness in his left arm and chest, he was sure it was a heart attack, then he wondered if he was having a stroke. But after a thorough workup by his doctor, the diagnosis was stress. He didn’t think about it much until he was running for office in 2008 and his stress level soared again, leading him to stay up all night “feeling overwhelmed,” Fall said, in an interview published in the Sacramento Bee.  Diagnosed with general anxiety disorder with depression, Fall was able to find medication that eased his anxiety so he could carry on with his election campaign.  

Fall, who wrote about his struggles with anxiety and depression in a book called “Running for Judge,” wants to combat the stigma of mental illness. He reasons that 20% to 25% of the population suffers from anxiety or depression. That means in California, roughly 400 of the state’s 1,700 judges experience symptoms similar to his, not to mention all those in other professions who also suffer. “I deal with them, and it does not disqualify me from being on the bench,” he told the Sacramento Bee, adding that  going public to destigmatize mental illness “far outweighed any flak I might have faced in an election campaign.”

ACLU of Massachusetts files lawsuit against the City of Boston for evictions at homeless encampment

Photo: Shutterstock

The ACLU of Massachusetts has filed suit against the City of Boston for allegedly violating the constitutional rights of unhoused people forced to leave a large encampment near the intersection of Massachusetts Avenue and Melnea Cass Boulevard. The area, known as “Mass. and Cass,” is at the center of the city’s opioid, homeless and mental health crises. The clearing was ordered by Acting Mayor Kim Janey last month and went into effect Nov. 1. Janey insists the city is taking a public health approach, but the ACLU disagrees. “This plan is harmful and unconstitutional because it forces people to disperse with no safe place to sleep, while disconnecting them from the medical care they are able to receive at Mass. and Cass,” said ACLU Massachusetts Executive Director Carol Rose in a statement, according to an article in Boston.com. “It’s inconsistent with City assurances, public safety, and the law.” The ACLU is part  of a coalition including health care providers, which presented a plan to Mayor-Elect Michelle Wu to address the needs of the population living at Cass and Mass. One recommendation is for the City to ask area inhabitants what they need and what solutions they suggest. Another is expanding services and counseling – without forcing people into them. 

Attorneys represent an Illinois man with schizophrenia hit by car after police abandoned him in a parking lot at midnight
Attorneys for a 24-year old  man, Qusai Alkafaween, allege that the young man, who has schizophrenia, suffered a traumatic brain injury after being hit by a car last year after police from the New Lenox, Illinois department decided to drop him off in a parking lot at midnight rather than taking him home,” according to the complaint filed on his behalf and cited in a story on the website of ABCNews. Told by the police to simply “start walking,” Alkafaween was “a danger to himself and others and unable to protect himself,” the story reported. The lawsuit also alleges that the hospital was negligent in releasing Alkafaween without making arrangements to transfer him to another psychiatric care facility. Alkafaween had been planning to attend classes at University of Illinois at Chicago but is now unable to do so because of his brain injury, his attorneys said.

In the US, if you or anyone you know is considering suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

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