Network Reflections: American Psychological Association

Posted July 12, 2022

The American Psychological Association (APA) is an enthusiastic and long-term affiliate member of Scholars at Risk (SAR). Our strategic plan includes several components that underlie our engagement. One of our strategic goals is to “utilize psychology to make a positive impact on critical social issues” through “the advancement of human rights, fairness, diversity, and inclusion,” and one of our guiding principles is to “respect and promote human rights.” Moreover, our governing Council of Representatives has passed Resolutions on the Free and Responsible Practice of Science and on Psychology and Human Rights, which commits APA to “protect psychologists’ human right to ethically and responsibly conduct their science and practice.”

Based on this solid policy grounding, we have been proud to support SAR. In addition to financial contributions, this support has taken several forms:

  • An APA member conducted a training on secondary trauma with SAR staff, sharing information on the symptoms of vicarious trauma and tips for self-care and recovery.
  • APA organized a series of webinars for the Global Psychology Alliance as part of the Vivian G. Prins Speaker Series, providing psychologists around the world an opportunity to hear powerful stories from a group of SAR scholars. We were privileged to learn about their academic work and experiences, as well as about threats to academic freedom and attacks on scholars.
  • An APA staff member is proud to serve on the SAR United States Steering Committee, helping provide direction to SAR US member institutions.
  • The Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues (Division 9 of APA) hosted a Congressional seminar on the topic of protecting and promoting the human rights of scientists, scholars, and students around the world, featuring remarks from SAR Executive Director, Robert Quinn.

APA has also engaged in many activities aligned with the SAR mission, promoting the rights, mental health, and well-being of scholars, human rights defenders, and other civic actors at risk. For example, following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, we have provided support to our colleagues at the National Psychological Association of Ukraine who formed a mental health hotline and disseminated resources to support their countrymen and women.  And in response to the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan, we advocated for the evacuation of several mental health professionals facing death threats due to their collaboration with Western institutions. Members of our team at the United Nations collaborated with colleagues from the International Association of Applied Psychology to write an advocacy letter that was disseminated widely at the UN, primarily to the Group of Friends of Mental Health and Well-being, and engaged in outreach to other organizations, such as the Open Society Foundations. In-part due to this advocacy, most of our Afghan colleagues were evacuated.

Supporting the rights and well-being of scholars, practitioners, and other civic actors is among our most rewarding work. We are deeply grateful for the opportunity to partner with organizations such as SAR to advance the principles of academic freedom and defend the human rights of scholars around the world.