SAN FRANCISCO — The American Psychiatric Association officially kicked off its annual meeting this weekend with the release of the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. To mark the occasion, incoming APA president Jeffrey A. Lieberman, MD, announced during the opening session that the profession of psychiatry has come of age.
"This is the time for us to seize the moment, for mental illnesses to step out of the shadows, for mental health care to be made accessible and fairly reimbursed, and for psychiatry to take its rightful role in the field of medicine," he said.
Jeffrey A. Lieberman
Lieberman, of Columbia University, noted several challenges facing the field. The Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008, which sought to end insurance discrimination against individuals seeking treatment for mental health problems and substance use, has not yet been implemented. The recession that began in 2008 resulted in the dismantling of psychiatric services in both public and private sectors across the country, and there has been little development in new psychotropic drugs. Stigma and inequity associated with mental health care still remain, as well.
"Throughout my career I've been acutely sensitive to the stigma associated with mental illness, the disparities that we've suffered in mental health care, and the lack of respect toward psychiatrists about their specialty," Lieberman said. "Now, I suppose there might have been a time when psychiatry wasn't as scientifically-based as it should have been, but that was then and now is now, and for such attitudes and practices to persist in the Twenty-first Century is nothing short of discriminatory and prejudicial."
Leiberman made these comments following some controversy over a blog post by NIMH Director Thomas Insel, MD, who had criticized the scientific validity of the diagnostic categories in the DSM-5. Earlier, Insel and Leiberman issued a joint statement seeking to clarify Insel's remarks and to express "shared interest in ensuring that patients and health providers have the best available tools and information today to identify and treat mental health issues."
Despite some of the challenges, psychiatric medicine has grown by leaps and bounds, Lieberman said. He gave examples of the emergence of psychopharmacology, neuroimaging, molecular genetics and biology, which have propelled psychiatry to the forefront of modern medicine.
The president-elect urged mental health care professionals to fight for the respect for their profession. He called on the APA to redouble its efforts in representing its interests in Washington and to actively engage its members at the grassroots level.
"To borrow a phrase from President Kennedy: 'On this day let the word go forth from this time and place,' to consumers to clinicians, to policymakers and providers, to advocates and stakeholders, and to all the members of the APA, that for the field of psychiatry and for the patients that we serve, 'our time has come,'" he said.
For more information:
Lieberman L. Opening Sessions. Presented at: American Psychiatric Association 166th Annual Meeting; May 18-22, 2013; San Francisco.