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APNA Commitment to Change

This is more than a statement; it is a commitment to creating change. The APNA Board of Directors recently met and discussed the racism and racial inequities that are woven throughout our society. The Board acknowledged the need to learn, support, and proactively foster sustainable change within the psychiatric-mental health nursing community. As a first step, we are issuing this statement as a follow-up to the message sent on June 2 that condemned racism and discrimination.

A core purpose of APNA, as outlined in our bylaws, is to “improve mental health care for culturally diverse individuals, families, groups, and communities, and shape health policy for the delivery of mental health services.”  APNA acknowledges and respects the inherent dignity, worth, and uniqueness of each individual. According to our scope and standards of practice, psychiatric-mental health nurses have a “central role in advocating for environments where the human rights, values, customs, and spiritual beliefs of individuals, families, and communities are respected.”

Black lives matter. We acknowledge that a long and ongoing history of systemic racism, racist violence, and biases, both inherent and overt, uniquely impact the health and quality of black peoples’ lives. For black, brown, and indigenous peoples, longstanding racism and disparities create lifelong and cumulative trauma, contributing to poor physical and mental health outcomes. These issues will continue if we do not act, and, as psychiatric-mental health nurses committed to fostering whole health for those we serve, we are duty-bound to address them at all levels.

The U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher’s 2001 report, “Mental Health: Culture, Race, and Ethnicity”, documented grave disparities in racial and ethnic minorities’ receipt of mental health services, noting that “the best available research… indicates that these groups have less access to and availability of care and tend to receive poorer quality mental health services.” Since this 2001 report, inequities in access to care have remained: compared to white Americans, Black Americans have lower rates of mental services use, prescription medications, and outpatient services, but twice the rate of inpatient hospitalization. Even with targeted efforts addressing minority populations, data indicate that between 2004 and 2012 there were no reductions in racial-ethnic disparities and African Americans and Hispanic Americans experienced an increase in unmet mental health treatment.

These ongoing issues require thoughtful, well-informed action. Therefore, the APNA Board of Directors has unanimously voted to create a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Advisory Committee. This committee will advise the Board on how APNA can proactively address these health disparities moving forward and facilitate the difficult but necessary conversations to create positive and sustainable change for those to whom we provide care.

An open call for members interested in serving on this committee is coming soon. In the meantime, please continue to email suggested resources for this APNA webpage that will help us all, as individual providers, stimulate meaningful change within our own lives and the lives of those we serve.