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I am writing today with a heavy heart, to acknowledge and speak to the profoundly disturbing and tragic happenings of the past several months, casting a spotlight on racial injustice and inequalities in our society.
There has been a cascade of events captured on video and projected through the media that starkly illustrate the racism and violence that sadly persist throughout our nation and beyond. While much of this is long-standing, heartbreaking, and infuriating, right now it is being experienced in the midst of a global health and economic crisis. In fact, the brutal killings of Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd, two defenseless black men, along with both the peaceful protests and riots that have ensued, are further magnified against the backdrop of racial health inequities epitomized by disparities in COVID-19 mortality rates. We are in a moment when our society seems to be especially raw and depleted, and also politically polarized. Yet, these are the very times when leadership, humanity, solidarity, and true strength of compassion are most vital.
Leadership in this regard is an activity that each of us can practice at home and at work, without a title of any kind, by drawing attention to important problems, giving voice to what is right, and engaging others to explore solutions. Each of us, and together as McLean, must stand for, speak out, and live up to our most fundamental shared values—promoting equality, justice, and non-violence while recognizing the precious nature of every human life.
“Each of us, and together as McLean, must stand for, speak out, and live up to our most fundamental shared values—promoting equality, justice, and non-violence while recognizing the precious nature of every human life.”
Moreover, in our work with patients, families, and one another, it is crucial that we be attuned to the various dimensions of emotion, pain, and suffering that people are feeling now, and especially as they relate to mental health. We must appreciate that there are both universal and highly individual aspects of how the current complex circumstances affect each person. It is heart-wrenching that there are segments of our community who disproportionately carry the burdens of fear, stress, and trauma caused by the discrimination and violence, as well as structural inequalities, that our society has failed to resolve. As a hospital—an institution of healing for all—more than ever, we must be a proactively welcoming place that celebrates diversity, finds common ground, and provides the best of science and compassion to comfort, care, and promote recovery.
Each person has their own image of inspiration and perseverance in the face of extreme adversity. For many who lived through the ‘60s to now, there are vivid examples of courageous leaders and moments of triumph through a civil rights movement, that also witnessed unfathomable violence and inhumanity including the assassination of our most peaceful heroes.
In our world and in our work, we can contribute much by carrying hope. Hope is a powerful and beautiful thing. Wisdom teaches us that it is absolutely necessary but ultimately insufficient. We are duly proud that McLean has served those who need us for over 200 years. In contrast, the scourge of racism, violence, and injustice has haunted humankind for much longer. The events of these last months have brought to the fore an inescapable reality that these unacceptable truths have gone unaddressed. We should and will hope for better. But ultimately, true leadership requires more. Hope must grow to aspiration, and then planful intention, leading to action for actual constructive change.
“As we have proven time and again, we will support one another, find our strength, and rise to meet whatever challenges emerge along the way to deliver on our mission for those who need us.”
I am grateful for the service and inspiration you provide each day. Our coming together unified as a community, and in solidarity with others, is more essential now than ever. As we have proven time and again, we will support one another, find our strength, and rise to meet whatever challenges emerge along the way to deliver on our mission for those who need us. I trust that we will remain mindful that we are both the McLean team and a legion of world citizens for peace, justice, equality, and humanity.
Scott L. Rauch, MD, is president, psychiatrist in chief, and Rose-Marie and Eijk van Otterloo Chair of Psychiatry at McLean Hospital. He is also a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School as well as chair of Psychiatry and Mental Health for Mass General Brigham.