Despite the initiation of #BlackLivesMatter in 2013, very little has changed since the death of Trayvon Martin in February 2012 and the acquittal of George Zimmerman. Activists have fought hard to bring awareness to racial inequality to no avail. Let us hope that George Floyd’s death may be the long-awaited pivotal moment, symbolic, and honoring the hundreds of thousands of preceding innocent black lives that have been lost. We send our condolences to George Floyd’s family and friends, and to Breonna Taylor, who instead of celebrating her 27th birthday June 5th, 2020, was shot in her own home by the Louisville police on March 13, 2020, during a narcotics raid. Expecting to be treated with respect, integrity, dignity and humanity is a universal birthright alongside liberty and pursuit of happiness. However, instead of providing additional support, opportunities and compassion for those subjugated for centuries in this country, we penalize, demonize, stigmatize and take innocent lives. Our judgements and explicit prejudice are driven by our ignorance, our implicit bias, our reluctance to accept the truth and our unwillingness to do something about it. Loss of innocent African Americans’ lives is merely the tip of the iceberg when it comes to centuries long discrimination and baseless justification. Other minorities such as Latino Asian minorities, LGBTQ, and women also suffer at the hands of cultural “norms” and outdated “laws”- which are anything but normal and frankly are inhumane and unlawful.

And how about patients who suffer from addiction or those who suffer from mental illness? Mental illness affects us all in some way shape or form. Special groups include the underrepresented when it comes to diagnosis, treatment or accessibility to treatment. It wasn’t that long ago when we chained human beings to the walls of an asylum and treated them like livestock. We claimed it would lessen or cure seizures, auditory and visual hallucinations and claimed torture and such atrocities “therapeutic”! Those suffering from addiction suffer from the social stigma which prevents them from receiving lifesaving treatment. They are often labeled as “morally corrupt”, “defective”, “pathologic”, and “incapable and undeserving” of being parents in many situations. Many who suffer from mental illness are labeled as “flawed”, “violent” and assumed to be more likely to commit crimes, despite research that (time and time again) finds that those suffering from mental illness are most likely to hurt themselves rather than others. Compassion and understanding, tolerance and treatment should be the norm, rather than stigma, social banishment and punishment.

As the SARS-Cov-2 virus replicates, the COVID-19 pandemic has reproduced other epidemics and pandemics. Strained healthcare workers are at a very high risk of mental illness and need prompt treatment and intervention. As a physician, it is heart wrenching to see a colleague die by suicide. According to CNN, Dr. Lorna Breen, an ER physician who treated many patients after her own recovery from COVID-19, died by suicide. Unfortunately, healthcare providers are especially stigmatized when it comes to seeking mental health care. Similarly, minorities struggle with accessibility to such life-saving treatment. It is time we look at ourselves and our human experience and ask how promptly and effectively can we change the unacceptable status quo?

Below listed professional societies are recent articles that may be helpful in the first stage of this change. Awareness, followed by acceptance and action can be a starting point when it comes to looking at our differences, be they skin color, gender diversity, cultural diversity, neurodiversity, or the diagnostic spectrum we fall into in terms of health, illness or wellness.

AMA: https://www.ama-assn.org/about/leadership/police-brutality-must-stop

ACEP: http://www.emergencyphysicians.org/press-releases/2020/5-30-20-acep-statement-on-structural-racism-and-public-health

APA: https://www.psychiatry.org/newsroom/news-releases/apa-condemns-police-brutality-calls-for-dialogue-to-ease-civil-unrest

APA (Psychology): https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2020/05/racism-pandemic

National Council Behavioral Health: https://www.thenationalcouncil.org/press-releases/statement-from-executive-leadership-team-of-the-national-council-for-behavioral-health-on-the-death-of-george-floyd/

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Dr. Moayed is a board-certified, musculoskeletal fellowship trained radiologist with 20+ year of experience in the Bay Area.

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Sepideh Moayed

Sepideh Moayed

Dr. Moayed is a board-certified, musculoskeletal fellowship trained radiologist with 20+ year of experience in the Bay Area.

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