George Floyd, race, and psychiatry: How to talk to patients


What do you think about that?

Dr. Newsome: Those are two extremely important steps. The question is: How do you make that happen?

Dr. Norris: You’re reading my mind. I love that our colleagues put that out there, but that was my next question.

Dr. Newsome: There is going to be a town hall about this and I’m hoping that we can plan how we envision this happening. I can imagine that 20 or 30 years ago there was also a fear in society that there would be episodes of police brutality. I can imagine that there were similar ideals and hopes. But I think we need to put all of our minds together and ask: How are we going to accomplish this? Is this going to be something we’re going to put our money into? Is this going to be something we’re going to get senators and legislatures onboard with to make policy?

Dr. Norris: Let me read off some of the other action points they put out. There are six of them.

“Establish a governmental multidisciplinary and ethnically diverse commission with representatives from the major health care professional associations in medicine, nursing, psychiatry, public health, psychology, social work, etc., and the faith-based community to provide recommendations to Congress regarding policies on how to best improve the health and well-being of our nation’s black citizens.”

That’s a very solid overall recommendation. My question is, doesn’t that, in some way, shape, or form already exist? Could we not put up policy statements from all of these folks regarding racism and things of that nature? I agree with what they’re saying, but part of me wonders why certain things in the current system aren’t working. That becomes the question. Are we not integrated enough? Do we not have enough cross talk? Do we not have enough money behind it? So I agree with that goal, but I would be curious if that doesn’t already exist. What are your thoughts about that, Dr. Newsome?

Dr. Newsome: I would imagine that the National Institute on Minority Mental Health and Health Disparities would have something similar. I believe one of the things you mentioned is really important. In addition to making these recommendations, we need to be looking at where these leaks are occurring that keep them from working. What is the current structure and why is it the way it is with regard to the governance?

Dr. Norris: Here is another of their action statements: “Declare ‘civic mental health’ a national priority and incorporate it into the educational curriculum from K through college, as well as in the training of local, state, and national officials, law enforcement, and the criminal justice system.”

Let me be clear, I like every single one of these action statements. I encourage everyone to participate in dialogue and discussion. You may agree with some of these, and some of them you may not, but if there is one you agree with, that you really are motivated about, that’s one that you need to explore and dig into a bit more, because it’s too big for us to handle on our own, just like racism and equality.

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