Sasse’s Disrespectful Remarks Re Psychologists Ignore Mental Health Crisis in America, Says APA President
Psychologists are on front lines of pandemic, treating stress, anxiety related to COVID-19
WASHINGTON — Following is a statement by Sandra L. Shullman, PhD, president of the American Psychological Association, in response to remarks by U.S. Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Nebraska, during an online commencement address Saturday to Nebraska's Fremont High School:
“Senator Sasse’s remarks about psychologists were disrespectful and harmful. Psychologists have been on the front lines helping medical professionals and patients as they struggle with mental health issues triggered by the stress of battling the novel coronavirus. The expertise of these psychologists is needed now and will be needed in the coming months as those affected by the pandemic suffer from a variety of mental health and cognitive-related issues, including post-traumatic stress disorder. Psychologists are at the forefront of offering behavioral interventions for those suffering from job losses, domestic violence, child abuse, substance use disorders and more. Our entire country has been deeply affected by this crisis. Psychological science and psychologists play critical roles in addressing the full range of mental health needs — whether it is stress from unemployment, relationships or family, or increased anxiety and depression, or institutional disruption.
"Psychology is one of the most popular majors in U.S. colleges and universities for good reason: Psychological science has applications to every aspect of life. Senator Sasse attempted to make psychology seem small, but it is not. Psychologists are engaged in a wide variety of activities from conducting research
on all aspects of human behavior to consulting to large corporations to improve employee performance and productivity to helping people engage in more healthful activities. If anything, the senator should have encouraged these graduates to study and even pursue careers in psychology. That would have been a particularly important message in the Midwest, where the mental health workforce is stretched and psychologists are working to meet unmet needs.
"And the senator did not limit his insults to psychologists. He also labeled COVID-19 as the 'Chinese virus,' a term that has been rejected as fomenting discrimination against Asian Americans.
"We believe the senator is better than what we heard in his speech. We hope in the future he will rely on those instincts rather than hurling thoughtless insults at a profession whose mission is to not only improve people’s lives, but is addressing mental health challenges and confronting the high rates of suicide and opioid and substance use disorders in our country. The economic recovery will not succeed without psychological science being embedded in strategies to address the virus and the fear that has gripped our nation.”