The American Psychiatric Association Finally Formally Apologized to People of Color

On Martin Luther King Day, the American Psychiatric Association released a statement that apologized to people of color for the role they played in supporting structural racism in psychiatry. 

They labeled the apology as “an important step in addressing racism in psychiatry.” 

The statement explained that. “The APA Board of Trustees (BOT) apologizes to its members, patients, their families, and the public for enabling discriminatory and prejudicial actions within the APA and racist practices in psychiatric treatment for Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC).” 

They elaborated that, “The APA is committed to identifying, understanding, and rectifying our past injustices, as well as developing anti-racist policies that promote equity in mental health for all.” 

In the statement, they recognized how early psychiatric practices that they enabled laid the groundwork for inequalities throughout psychiatric care which hurt people of color. In specific, they identified the limited access to psychiatric care as one of the things they perpetuated for people of color. 

They recognized that since their inception, practitioners have subjected BIPOC communities suffering from mental illness to “abusive treatment, experimentation, victimization in the name of “scientific evidence,” along with racialized theories that attempted to confirm their deficit status.” 

In another statement, they elaborated on specific instances where they hurt BIPOC communities. 

They explained that, “When Eastern State Hospital (ESH), the first psychiatric care facility, was founded in 1773, it was not segregated. Seventy years later, however, when the 13 founders of what is now the APA met to discuss improvements in mental health care delivery, the treatment system they created and the organization they founded aligned with that era’s racist social/political policies. In this system, Black patients received psychiatric care separately from white patients. A former ESH superintendent also implicated that payment for psychiatric care was accepted in the form of enslaved people at least during the facility’s founding.” 

They went on to explain how the founders of APA believed in and spread stereotypes about African American patients, including, “a now-debunked diagnosis, Drapetomania, centered around the idea that Black Americans who did not want to be slaves were mentally ill. During that time, the APA chose to remain silent on these issues.” 

They failed to act in favor of Black American’s interest since their inception, in psychiatry and publicly, not declaring support for sociopolitical advancements like the Brown v. Board of Education ruling. 

Their actions, they’ve admitted, led to the widespread and common misdiagnosis of BIPOC patients. Specifically, they cited the race-based discrepancies in schizophrenia diagnosis between white and BIPOC patients. 

They also recognized that it was up until this statement that the APA had remained silent on these problems. The events of 2020, and public pressure, pushed them to make this statement and set goals to do and be better. Whether they actually will is yet to be seen but their apology is a small step in the right direction. 

They finished their statement with the promise, “We hope this apology will be a turning point as we strive to make the future of psychiatry more equitable for all.” 


Help Keep Big Easy Magazine Alive

Hey guys!

Covid-19 is challenging the way we conduct business. As small businesses suffer economic losses, they aren’t able to spend money advertising.

Please donate today to help us sustain local independent journalism and allow us to continue to offer subscription-free coverage of progressive issues.

Thank you,
Scott Ploof
Big Easy Magazine

Share this Article

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *