Advocating for Youth Mental Health Research and Stronger Protections for Children on Social Media
Alix Ginsberg, Senior Director of APA Congressional & Federal Relations – “On June 15th nearly 60 APA member psychologists participated in 150 meetings with their Members of Congress on Capitol Hill to advocate for youth mental health research and stronger protections for children online. APA celebrated this as the first in-person fly-in since the COVID-19 pandemic. The mental health aspects of social media and the need for more research in this and other areas impacting children are topic where policymakers, regulators, parents, and APA have recently highlighted the need for change. These meetings worked to raise the profile of psychology, stressed the need for greater research funding, and secured additional cosponsors for legislation aimed at curtailing the harms of social media on children.
“To prepare for their Hill meetings, participants gathered the day before for an in-person briefing during which they learned about the Kids Online Safety Act (S. 1409) and draft legislation to authorize funding for a Youth Mental Health Initiative. APA President Thema Bryant gave welcoming remarks, which were followed by a presentation from APA Chief Advocacy Officer Katherine McGuire on the shifting political landscape and what psychologists can do to meet the moment. Throughout the day, participants heard from expert members on the impacts of social media on a child’s brain, recommendations included in the recent APA Health Advisory on Social Media Use in Adolescence, and the need for federal oversight on social media. Notably, APA was pleased to welcome Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Commissioner Alvaro Bedoya for a conversation on the role that psychology can play in shaping federal policy around social media.
To close out the day, Thema and Katherine presented awards to members whose advocacy efforts have elevated the voices of those from underserved communities and advanced the discipline of psychology. The first Presidential Citation was given to Diana Prescott for her commitment to the underserved rural health community, her leadership in federal advocacy, and her contributions to the APA Board of Directors. The second Presidential Citation was awarded to Brendesha Tynes, for her scholarship in developmental psychology, her leadership in advancing digital equity in schools, and her commitment to protecting children from racial discrimination in the digital world. Katherine then presented the APA Services Advocacy Award to two federal advocacy coordinators. The first awardee was Amy Beck for her dedicated advocacy at both the state and federal levels, her participation in diverse coalitions to elevate different facets of children’s mental and physical well-being, her efforts to find new allies for psychology from different sectors to support legislation led by the Missouri Psychological Association (MOPA), and her leadership in training advocates to speak up on important social issues, including organizing MOPA’s first member-wide legislative day. Molly Gabriel-Champine, from the Michigan Psychological Association, was then honored for her work at the intersection of psychology and medicine, her leadership in the successful push to enact legislation promoting the full range of evidence-based models of integrated care, including the Primary Care Behavioral Health model, as well as her work to gain Medicare coverage for advanced psychology trainees.
“Katherine then presented Congressional Champion Awards to Senator Marsha Blackburn (R-Tennessee) and Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut) for their work on the bipartisan Kids Online Safety Act (KOSA). Both Senators have worked tirelessly to elevate the importance of youth mental health, recruit a robust and bipartisan collection of cosponsors for KOSA, and met with diverse stakeholders to continually improve the legislation.”
Collectively Addressing a Pressing Societal Issue
The American Psychological Foundation (APF) – Former APF Chairperson and former APA President, Dorothy Cantor recently announced that APF, in conjunction with the Fund Organizing Committee and Division 55 (the Society for Prescribing Psychology), has established the APF Psychology of Antisemitism Fund. This effort will support annual grants for psychology researchers to use psychological theory and evidence to develop or implement interventions aimed at the reduction of antisemitism and/or mitigating its effects. Laura Barbanel, who convened the Organizing Committee: “With the appalling and frightening rise of antisemitism in the United States and around the world, it seemed vital that psychologists be brought together to address the growing problem. Psychologists are the experts on human behavior and our hope is that their expertise can help mitigate the problem.”
Dorothy: “I am excited to see organized psychology come together for the first time to address the horrific problem of antisemitism. APF is the right organization to tackle the problem because of its vast reach to researchers and clinicians who will take advantage of the funding opportunities, and because of its capacity for disseminating the results to the broader public. This fund will support the APF Psychology of Antisemitism Grant which will award applicants who design, develop, or implement existing programs that are set up to reduce antisemitism or mitigate its effects.” APF President Terry Keane: “We are proud to partner with the Fund Organizing Committee and Division 55 on this important cause. The rise of antisemitism worldwide is a pressing concern, and we look forward to funding programs that will successfully combat this trend.”
Richard Lerner: “After World War II, psychologists were part of a multidisciplinary team that explained to the world the nature, developmental bases, and dangerous implications for world peace, democracy, and social justice of the authoritarian personality and of the fascist and white-supremacy ideas harbored by such individuals. Today, with the resurgence of fascism, white nationalism, and anti-democratic ideologies and actions besetting the world and American government and civil society, psychologists are again being asked to focus their expertise on ways to understand the roots of antisemitism and fascism and to contribute to eliminating it from our nation. As they did almost 80 years ago, psychological science will meet this challenge, and the APF Psychology of Antisemitism Fund will significantly help enable them to make this contribution to democracy and the well-being of all people in our nation.” The Fund’s inaugural Breakfast will be at the convention on Friday, August 4, 7:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. in the Division 55 Hospitality Suite at the Marriott Hotel.
The National Academy of Medicine (NAM) – Soon after the Supreme Court decision in Students for Fair Admissions, Inc. v. President and Fellows of Harvard College, Victor Dzau, President of the National Academy of Medicine, shared the June 30, 2023 statement by himself and his fellow Presidents of the National Academy of Sciences and National Academy of Engineering (NASEM): “Yesterday the Supreme Court issued a ruling to restrict affirmative action that will present challenges to efforts to diversify the nation’s colleges and universities. We strongly believe that the nation should remain committed to these efforts and find solutions that address racial inequities, including past and current racial discrimination and structural, systemic, and institutional racism in education.
“A 2011 National Academies report stated that policies that have included affirmative action are fundamentally important to increasing the participation of members of historically underrepresented racial and ethnic minority groups at the postsecondary level across all fields. The report further states that increasing their participation and success contributes to the health of the nation by expanding the science and engineering talent pool, enhancing innovation, and improving the nation’s global economic leadership. A National Academies report issued in February 2023 recommends that leaders of organizations, including colleges and universities, take action to redress both individual bias and discrimination as well as review their own processes to determine whether they perpetuate negative outcomes for people from underrepresented racial and ethnic minority groups at critical points of access and advancement.
“It is essential that our nation extend the opportunity for a college education to all, enhance diverse learning experiences for all students, and create equitable pathways to grow a highly skilled workforce and to solve our most complex problems. Diversity is crucial to the success of our society and our economy. We must also remain committed to advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts within our own institutions. We will continue to examine the implications of the decision for our staff and our work as an institution, our relationships with partners and volunteers, and our essential work of providing evidence-based advice to our nation on issues related to science, engineering, and medicine.”
Ever Steady RxP Progress
Beth Rom-Rymer – “In celebration of the many advances that we are making in building Prescriptive Authority (RxP) Movements around the globe, I am chairing an international panel of psychologists at our 131st annual APA Convention. The psychologists will be speaking about RxP Movements that they are leading in their countries, including Canada, South Africa, Jamaica, Brazil, and Poland, as well as the role that our training programs play in the proliferation of international Movements. As a further celebration, I have organized a gathering at my Virginia home, immediately following the close of our Convention, featuring speeches by our international panelists; the CEO of national NAMI, Dan Gillison; and Izzeldin Abuelaish, a Palestinian/Canadian OBGYN and public health professor at the University of Toronto, who will speak about the dire need for global alliances, especially among healthcare providers, in the Movement to tamp down rising sectarian violence around the world.
“On August 25th, I will be chairing a panel of psychologists and psychiatrists at The Chicago School of Professional Psychology, who have created and who staff the innovative healthcare program in the Illinois Department of Corrections, that serves the psychological and medical needs of transgender folks who are incarcerated in the Department of Corrections. The panelists will discuss the conceptual development of such a Program and how it is being so successfully implemented. The Program will be hybrid and is open to healthcare professionals as well as the general public.
“Finally, on August 26th, I will be chairing my 14th biannual RxP networking hybrid dinner (held every six months) at my home in Chicago, at which we will have prescribing psychologists and prescribing psychologists-to-be talk about their studies and their work. We will be featuring Jeff Singer, Arizona general surgeon and senior research fellow at the CATO Institute, whom we will honor for his many contributions to our legislative advocacy for RxP. It is particularly gratifying to work with interdisciplinary teams of healthcare providers, all concerned about access to mental healthcare for the most vulnerable in our communities. Not unlike other challenging historical eras, we are, as a global community, today, facing serious existential threats.”
That All-Important Personal Experience
As our generation of colleagues becomes increasingly senior, personal stories begin to surface describing how difficult it can be to receive quality, patient-center holistic health care for one’s loved ones or oneself. New Hampshire’s Sandy Rose experienced a rare genetic mutation, resulting in the growth of neuroendocrine tumors which ushered her down this unexpected path. Prior to her illness, she owned a multidisciplinary behavioral health practice which she merged into a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC). She helped to develop peer recovery programs to assist patients manage their illnesses. “So, I thought I knew how to be a ‘successful’ patient. I didn’t.
“Dear Valued Health Care System. Thank you for sending your survey for feedback on my outpatient encounter. As the format box was too small for elaboration, I hope you don’t mind these suggestions to improve my experience as a patient. Know me – How ironic you ask my name and DOB repeatedly during rooming, procedures, and checkout, but you have so little knowledge of who I really am, even what I prefer to be called (Sandy). Please get to know my values when it comes to quality of life, and my preferences for care. Am I an internal control kind of person who prefers immediate test results and data to inform my decisions, or am I overwhelmed and prefer to wait for providers who take the lead to guide me through decisions? Can pre-surgery questionnaires include the quality of the deal breakers for surgery (will this extend my life but reduce its quality), or whether I would prefer to preserve my swallowing nerves and leave the tumor next to them if it comes to a choice? Shared decision making requires factoring in treatment options that truly weigh the risks and benefits to the patient, not always the same criteria that the surgeon feels is best. Make time for providers to really listen to, and respect what patients have to say about their bodies, as this can provide insight that no one else will have.
“My place or yours – Whenever possible keep me home, avoiding hours of commuting, travel and parking expenses and missed work for myself and caretaker(s). Equal the playing field – sitting around home at least allows me to do the laundry, or work at my home office and take out the dog while you see other patients, write notes, take calls. This also avoids sitting alongside others with various stages of who-knows-what germs. Legislation should facilitate interstate licensing to enable telehealth where the patient is. If it can be done so easily during the pandemic, why is it not available now? When I routinely wait for an hour or more to see a provider, or even half an hour, I realize that the office does not care about my time, comfort or in the case of a crowded wait rooms, safety. Invest in technology to improve efficiency and eliminate the need for archaic phone calls that are missed, involving long waits while rerouted to various departments, and/or require me to be tethered to my phone all day to wait for call backs.
“Identify what matters to me and incorporate this in the design as well as evaluation of care. Please ask me for input before protocols are designed for accessing care, workflow, new scans and especially reimbursement systems that drive practice. Use this data to identify values that will weigh importantly in practice, as they would for provider and funder measures of care. At the least, if I’m going to take the time to communicate my experience, can someone write back or at least let me know who reads this and why? In other words, I want my experience to matter, and not be limited to post encounter surveys designed to merely and vaguely, fix problems that may not be my priorities, after they occur. Thank you very much for caring enough to ask about my experience. Your time is very important to us.” If we do not accept the responsibility for addressing Sandy’s experiences, who will? “Friends around the campfire and everybody’s high” (Rocky Mountain High, John Denver).
Pat DeLeon, former APA President – Division 29 – July 2023
Cite This Article
DeLeon, P. (2023). “I’ve seen it rainin’ in the sky”. Psychotherapy Bulletin, 58(2,3), 62-66. Retrieved from http://www.societyforpsychotherapy.org/ive-seen-it-rainin-in-the-sky