The mental health effects on Black Americans of the more than 300 police killings of Black people in their country each year, at least a quarter of whom were unarmed, were the subject of a study in The Lancet in June 2018.
One member has drawn our attention to Nix and Lozada’s critical review of this study, which found 93 of its incidents to be misclassified, and questions the decision to headline The Site’s statement with this source. Beginning with a large number potentially obscures the individual too: these were people with names.
In March 2019, after a call by his father requesting police to perform a ‘mental health wellness check’, 29-year-old Osaze Osagie was shot and killed in his own home in Pennsylvania: an account of his life in the media mentions ‘autism, paranoid schizophrenia, extreme anxiety and Asperger’s syndrome’. Some members feel uncomfortable with these words, as stigmatising in themselves.
In October, 2016, Deborah Danner was killed in her home in the Bronx by a New York police sergeant, who claimed she was acting erratically. She was 66 years old. On January 28, 2012, she had written a six page essay entitled ‘Living with Schizophrenia’ (https://assets.documentcloud.org/documents/3146953/Living-With-Schizophrenia-by-Deborah-Danner.pdf) which begins: ‘Any chronic illness is a curse. Schizophrenia is no different—its only “saving grace”, if you will, is that as far as I know it’s not a fatal disease’.
Deborah Danner’s essay contains a definition of stigma from the Merriam-Webster dictionary:
a archaic : a scar left by a hot iron : BRAND b : a mark of shame or discredit: STAIN <bore the stigma of madness (mental illness)> c : an identifying mark or
characteristic; specifically: a specific diagnostic sign of a disease.
She writes: ‘I’ve included the definition of stigma in this essay because those who practice it should be reminded of what it means and, conversely, the damage it does to those it is directed at’.
The Site for Contemporary Psychoanalysis requires its members to abide by a Code of Ethics, which contains the following clauses:
2.2.1 A member accepts that a personal prejudice they knowingly hold about the patient’s gender, age, colour, race, disability, sexuality, social, economic or immigration status, lifestyle, religious or cultural beliefs is likely to have an adverse effect on the way they relate to the patient or to colleagues and others.
2.2.2 A member shall actively consider the area of diversities and equalities as part of their continuing process of self-enquiry and professional development.
The Site stands with Black people, and we affirm in particular our responsibilities as psychoanalysts concerned with mental health. We acknowledge links between American cases of police brutality and the death of Kingsley Burrell who died in detention under the Mental Health Act in March 2011, after being restrained by police at a hospital in Birmingham, UK. We condemn the killings of Osaze Osagie and Deborah Danner and the killing of George Floyd on 25 May 2020, and of Rashan Charles, Gareth Myatt and Jimmy Mubenga in our own country, as violent acts which are the consequence of systemic racism. One member has advocated powerfully for how this statement has overlooked by its emphasis on the US all the incidents happening every day in the UK.
Furthermore we recognise that there is a need to challenge and confront racism in the life of our own organisation: our management, clinic, trainings and events, and strongly to examine how our policies and procedures contribute to structural racism in the communities in which we work, including psychoanalysis more broadly, so that changes can be made. We also stand with the UKCP’s statement on racial injustice, which can be accessed here: https://www.psychotherapy.org.uk/ukcp-news/midweek-mindset/ukcp-statement-racial-injustice/ .
26 June, 2020