President’s Column – 2015

By Nancy Caro Hollander

Nancy Hollander

Section IX in Action

Section IX has had an active year. We have supported and participated with other progressive organizations in a variety of important efforts that integrate our social concerns with our mental health commitments. Following the Israeli/Gaza war last summer that left over 2000 Palestinian men, women and children dead and tens of thousands of survivors in acute and chronic traumatic states, Section IX co-hosted an event in Boston on October 28 to honor the life and work of Dr. Eyad el Sarraj.  The first psychiatrist in the Gaza Strip, Dr. Eyad el Sarraj was the founder and director of the Gaza Community Mental Health Programme.  Featuring Noam Chomsky and Sara Roy among others, the event was designed to explore the work of the GCMHP and how, one year after the death of Dr. Eyad el Sarraj, his important work that has united human rights with mental health can be supported in the future. For more current information, please see the article here.

In the tradition of our struggle to change the ethics code of the APA regarding the participation of psychologists in “enhanced interrogations” of prisoners carried out by the U.S. government, in September 2014, along with Psychologists for Social Responsibility, Section IX supported a petition authored by Dr. Trudy Bond, Prof. Benjamin Davis, Dr. Curtis F. J. Doebbler and The International Human Rights Clinic at Harvard Law School, called the Shadow Report to the United Nations Committee Against Torture. Related to the Review of the Periodic Report of the United States of America, the petition was written on behalf of Advocates for U.S. Torture Prosecutions.

In response to the legislative assaults at the federal and state levels on Women’s reproductive rights, one of the most drastic of which has been legislated in Texas, Section IX’s Women’s Committee is supporting a project created by Lenzi Sheible, an energetic and creative young woman who is the founder and president of Fund Texas Choice. This organization is an Austin-based nonprofit that provides financial assistance for women now forced to travel long distances to reach the small number of facilities left in Texas or those existing in adjacent states. For women burdened by financial constraints, Fund Texas Choice pays for necessities, such as bus and plane tickets and hotel accommodations, for women traveling to and from their abortion procedures. For more information, go to Fund Texas Choice. If you are interested in supporting this important pro-choice activism in Texas, you can send your donation to Fund Texas Choice, 3903 S. Congress Ave, #41823, Austin, Texas, 78704 or donate here.

The Section also created an online year -long seminar for members that focused on various themes related to psyche and society. We provided monthly discussions of the syllabus articles, and although the participation was not as active as we had hoped, I did receive many individual messages from members thanking our Education Committee for the syllabus and expressing appreciation of its contents. If you did not receive a copy of the syllabus it is located here.

Section IX Board Members’ Activism

Our board members have been active in local efforts to integrate human rights, social justice and mental health issues. An example is Boston-based Lynne Layton’s involvement in a group that was organized several years ago called Psychosocial Work Group. They are a coalition of filmmakers, psychologists, sociologists and activists that puts on programs and conferences that illuminate the connections between the psychological and the social world. Last May they organized a conference called Psychosocial Dialogues: Film, Theory, and Practice. This is a model that many of us may want to develop in our own parts of the country.

Another example is New York-based Donna Bassin who won a PEP video grant to create The Mourning After, a follow up to her documentary, Leave No Soldier. These films focus on generating clinically useful psychoanalytic insights about the restorative and redemptive mourning practices of a number of veteran communities. Donna has also designed By Our Own Hand, a community art installation in collaboration with Combat Paper, NJ. By Our Own Hand intended to bring veterans and non-veterans together to reflect upon the epidemic number of U.S. service members and veterans who have committed suicide.

Since 2005, Jane Hassinger has been engaged in multiple interdisciplinary community-based and psychoanalytically informed interventions and research projects in South Africa, Ghana, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and most recently, in Latin America and East Africa that explore the experiences of women coping with poverty, mental illness, HIV/AIDS, sexual violence and burdens of care-giving. Jane’s current work in Latin America and East Africa extends the Providers Share Workshop that was developed in the United States in 2007 to investigate the dynamics of abortion stigma while offering a supportive workshop for abortion providers.

In the San Francisco Bay Area, local Section IX members have been engaging in an exciting project called Reflective Spaces, Material Places, whose participants strive to provide meaningful interventions that address the social, psychic, and justice demands of those who struggle the most in our society. They provide an opportunity for the urgent need of mental health professionals to carve out spaces to reflect on their work and connect with one another. The Section IX Invited Panel at this year’s Division 39 meeting features members of RSMP, who will present and demonstrate how their unique and exciting meetings provide the opportunity for dialogue between mental health community work and psychoanalytic thinking.

Section IX at Division 39

Please note our Section schedule at Division 39 in April in San Francisco:

Our Invited Panel: A New Model for Psychoanalytic Thinking and Community Practice: A Live Presentation of Reflective Spaces/Material Places is on Thursday, April 23, 10-11:50 in Presidio; Our board meeting is on Thursday, April 23, 1-2:50 pm in Telegraph Hill; Our Special Meeting (an informal exchange of perspectives on Israel/Palestine) meets on Friday, April 24, 8–9:50 am in Twin Peaks North; and our fabulous Joint Reception, Co-sponsored by Sections II, V and IX and the Committees on Multicultural Concerns, Sexualities and Gender Identities, Early Career Psychologists and Psychoanalysis and the Community, gathers people for drink, eats and lively conversations on Saturday, April 25, 6:30–8:30 pm in Twin Peaks North and South.

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So that we can continue our work, please join or renew your membership by filling out and returning your membership form.

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