The Social Psychiatric Importance of the 2022 Presidents Day for the USA and Our APA


Presidents Day may be a good signifier of the changing times.

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What we now call Presidents Day was first known as Washington’s Birthday. Starting in the late 1960s, it changed to Presidents Day as part of the social changes of the time. Somewhat akin to that time, we are now in another era of some similar social and cultural upheaval and challenges.

Perhaps if it is used generally, we in psychiatry can take it to refer to the recent election of our new American Psychiatric Association (APA) President-Elect, Petros Levounis, subject to approval by the Board in March. Psychiatric TimesTM covered his election the next day in the article, “Levounis Named APA President Elect.” I now want to add a social perspective to it. Without violating the Goldwater Rule, I will only comment on what has been publicly released about his identity and policies.

In the APA Press Release, the second sentence mentions that he is the “first openly gay psychiatrist elected to the presidency of the APA.” Following many years after the APA removed any reference to homosexuality in our diagnostic classifications, this can be considered to be the next step in normalizing the LGBTQ+ community within the APA itself.

Along with the APA’s current President’s emphasis on the social determinants of mental health, as well as the prior President’s leadership in developing antiracism policies and procedures, the APA is making progress in rightfully correcting the inadequate attention paid to the social in our bio-psycho-social model. Dr Levounis adds such other social concerns as technological addictions and nature therapy.

Of course, the correct President of the United States, Joe Biden, is trying to pay attention to the social needs of the country, including our infrastructure and climate instability. Now he is also trying to add a Black woman to the Supreme Court. May they both succeed—and perhaps work together—in these endeavors over this next year.

Dr Moffic is an award-winning psychiatrist who has specialized in the cultural and ethical aspects of psychiatry. A prolific writer and speaker, he received the one-time designation of Hero of Public Psychiatry from the Assembly of the American Psychiatric Association in 2002. He is an advocate for mental health issues relate to climate instability, burnout, Islamophobia, and anti-Semitism for a better world. He serves on the Editorial Board of Psychiatric TimesTM.

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