Statement by APA President Allan Tasman, M.D., on the Surgeon General's Report on Mental Health

December 12, 1999

Statement by APA President Allan Tasman, M.D., on the Surgeon General's Report on Mental Health

The Surgeon General's report is good news to millions of people with mental illnesses, and constitutes a national call to action. Based on an exhaustive review of scientific research spanning many years, Surgeon General David Satcher, M.D., the nation's top physician, has stated unequivocally that mental illnesses are real illnesses linked to brain function, and that science has yielded highly effective treatments for them. He has urged people with symptoms of mental illness to seek help, and said that health insurance should pay for that treatment on the same basis as it covers other medical illnesses.

This 1999 Surgeon General's report can do for mental illness what the Surgeon General's 1964 report did for smoking and health. The APA believes it will bring about a sea of change in public attitudes and understanding of mental illnesses and those who suffer them, and sets the stage for a major assault on the myths and stigma that continue to block access to care for millions. It is the gold standard for authoritative public information about mental illnesses and their treatments.

The APA is especially pleased to see the attention the report pays to confidentiality, calling it the critical ingredient necessary for treatment and an effective therapeutic relationship between doctor and patient. We also commend the Surgeon General for recognizing the need to train additional psychiatrists and other mental health professionals, especially in the care of children with mental illnesses.

The Surgeon General points to dramatic advances in treatment for mental illnesses, although he notes we do not fully understand the causes of most mental illnesses and their interlocking social, psychological, and biological influences. The APA strongly supports his call for continued expansion of research.

By issuing this report, the Surgeon General is saying that it is past time for the nation to bring mental illnesses and those who suffer them out of the darkness of stigma and shame, and place them where they belong--in the medical mainstream.

American Psychiatric Association

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