In 2009, as APA’s president-elect, I had a long list of priorities, from fostering better connections between science and practice to working with international psychologists to improve mental health worldwide. At the time, I thought the list might be too ambitious. Now, as my presidential year draws to a close, I realize I never could have predicted the successes we’ve had.
We’ve made great strides forward on many key initiatives, such as drawing attention to the needs of caregivers and creating the web-based Family Caregivers Briefcase, initiating the development of treatment guidelines, supporting the diagnostic classification revision project at the World Health Organization in partnership with the International Union of Psychological Science, and providing new resources for psychologists.
This important work has been successful not because I have been in the presidential seat; rather, all of these accomplishments, and many, many more, are a reflection of APA’s tremendous reach. As you know, APA is the world’s largest psychological association, with 150,000 members and affiliates. But we are much more than that. Worldwide, APA is seen as a powerhouse of psychological research, knowledge and advocacy.
I’ve witnessed APA’s reach as an organization many times over the last year, but three examples in particular stand out in my mind. One was the controversy over the Manchester Hyatt. In response to a donation to the Proposition 8 campaign by the owner of the Manchester Hyatt, APA’s Council of Representatives voted to not meet at the hotel during our 2010 Annual Convention in San Diego. During convention, through a variety of programs, we highlighted APA’s policy in support of same-sex marriage and the science that underpins that position. It was particularly gratifying that our convention was held just days after U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker struck down California’s constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, giving us an unmatched opportunity to focus public attention on the research on the mental health benefits of marriage, as well as the pernicious effects of discrimination and stigma.
Taking this stand sent an important message to so many people.
Another event that underscored for me APA’s reach was Navy Day, also during APA’s 2010 convention. I can’t adequately express what an honor it was for me to speak to these psychologists who, as practitioners, consultants and researchers, work tirelessly to ensure that our nation provides the best services and support for our men and women in uniform and their families. What struck me most, though, was how much they appreciated APA’s work on their behalf. They are so thankful, for example, for our advocacy to increase behavioral research funding for the Department of Defense, and for APA’s creation of the Center for Deployment Psychology to train psychologists to provide deployment-related behavioral health services to military personnel and their families.
On a personal level, perhaps the most meaningful event was presenting a Presidential Citation to former First Lady Rosalynn Carter for her caregiving leadership and more than 30 years of mental health advocacy. She was so touched by our recognition she had tears in her eyes. She has been a huge supporter of mental health parity and reducing stigma, goals APA has made a priority for years. “I want people to know what I know,” said Carter. “So we can get over the stigma and we can do what is good and right for people with mental illness.” Again, the work APA does is appreciated on many levels.
It has been a thrilling year, one in which I have grown personally and learned so much. In passing the gavel on to my successor, I am proud to say that APA remains an incredibly strong, vibrant organization, poised for even greater accomplishments and more dedicated than ever to advancing our noble profession. My thanks to all of you who contribute so much to advancing psychology in science, education, practice and the public interest, at home and around the globe.
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