Tuesday, June 4, 2013

APA Representatives Hold Press Conference in Wake of White House Meeting

Yesterday, President Obama and Vice President Biden held a White House conference on mental health. In attendance were Jeffrey Lieberman, M.D., president of APA; Paul Summergrad, M.D., APA president-elect; Jeffrey Borenstein, M.D., editor-in-chief of Psychiatric News and president and CEO of the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation; and former member of Congress Patrick Kennedy, a senior strategic advisor for APA (pictured above with APA President Jeffrey Lieberman, M.D.). After the conference, these participants, as well as APA Medical Director James H. Scully Jr., M.D., hosted a press conference to discuss some of the pressing issues in mental health care.

One such issue concerns the federal parity law that was passed five years ago, but which still does not have a final rule to ensure that insurance companies follow the law. "We want a rule to be released by the White House" that says that the brain as well as the body should be covered, Kennedy declared, and there should also be disclosure of those insurance companies that do not comply with the parity law. Sommergrad concurred: "It has been five years since the parity act was passed. A final rule is critical."

Another key issue addressed is how to dissuade the American public from thinking that people with mental illness are likely to be violent. "Gun control and violence have been conflated with mental illness," observed Lieberman. Yet only 4 percent of violent crimes are committed by mentally ill individuals, he emphasized.

And yet a third crucial issue is how to combat stigma. The speakers agreed that the best way is to change how the media portray mental illness. A good example of how reporters propagate stigma is when they write, for example, "A politician has a schizophrenic attitude," Borenstein noted. Reporters would certainly never write, "A politician has a diabetic attitude," he emphasized.

(Image: David Hathcox)


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