The Civil Rights Era brought on many new freedoms for Blacks. In some ways, the equal rights activism of the 1960’s was a great hindrance to Blacks. The lack of mental health liberties or rights are one stark reminder that stereotypes and racism is alive and well in America as well as abroad.
Sadly, clinicians don’t receive enough education or training to understand and interpret the cultural and language differences in Blacks. Even more tragically, stereotypes are deeply rooted in mental health research that misdiagnoses Blacks with affective (emotional) disorders and cognitive disturbances. What is thought of as normal and abnormal is not catered to the differences in cultures and upbringing. Thus, a Black patient will often find themselves erroneously labeled with schizophrenia when in fact they do not have the serious disease.
Blacks, specifically black men, are four or five times more likely to be diagnosed with schizophrenia. This is absurd! As briefly mentioned in the introduction, whites were more likely to be diagnosed with schizophrenia pre-civil rights era. In fact, in the 1920’s, schizophrenia was nothing more than an emotional imbalance, a disharmonious cataclysm, than needed to be nurtured, not feared. But then, in the 1960’s and 1970’s, schizophrenia became a well known disease by the public. Blacks were able to access medical care in general more frequently and with more ease. For no explained reason, schizophrenia was defined by the public as a “stubborn, aggressive, belligerent black man disease.” Making the black man “cooperate” was swiftly achieved with high doses of Haldol (an anti-psychotic).
Before the public could bat an eye, black men were hauled off in droves to the nearest prison and shackled to the walls, all the while they were being doped up on anti-psychotics. Schizophrenics were instantaneously considered violent, paranoid, psychotic black men. Schizophrenics were the types of people who went on shooting rampages and held several city blocks at a standstill while hostage negotiators were trying to calm the black man down.
It’s called institutional racism, and it is one of the biggest, most powerful forces in America and abroad.
It’s much more complicated than ordinary racism. This is not an article about the poor, abused black man (or woman) either. It’s about equal access to health-care, to qualified medical professionals, and the corrupt, broken justice system. It is about a narcotized society who has chosen to label most mental patients as having the same skin color without any regards to the truth. IT is about ingraining into the Black psyche that the will never overcome poverty, institutionalization, lack of education, prison bars, and the lack of medical care.
Here’s something sobering to consider: six percent of the US Black population is foreign-born and 10 percent is of foreign ancestry, states this research.Despite the colossal differences in ancestry and culture between the Blacks, research and medical care has not addressed the differences. Mental health remains a “one size fits all” regimen and diagnostic tools for all races, not just among the different ancestral groups of Blacks.
Though single people, impoverished persons, and low social class people are discriminated against in the mental health field, Blacks have it far worse. As this study suggests, Blacks are more likely to be unemployed, to have a record of convictions, to be resident in decaying inner-city areas, to be living alone, and to have experienced prolonged separation from both parents in early life. There is no linear contribution to genetics playing out in this phenomenon. In other words, researchers are not finding familial links to schizophrenia, as exhaustive research has suggested in general about the disease. Rather, the positive links between Blacks and schizophrenics are the aforementioned socio-economic problems they face. As of yet, research doesn’t support the theory that schizophrenia is caused by environmental factors. This implies, therefore, that low socio-economic people, particularly Blacks, are being misdiagnosed with schizophrenia due to growing stereotypes, cultural ignorance, and racism.
Here’s some relevant facts I ascertained from Internet research:
* There are only 2 percent of psychiatrists, 2 percent of psychologists and 4 percent of social workers in the U.S. that are African American.
* Blacks, knowing they are less likely to receive medical care in general when seeking it, are more likely to turn to family and friends for help.
* Blacks metabolize medications slower than Caucasian Americans, yet they are for some unexplained reason given higher does of medications.Thus causes more negative side affects and decreased compliance.
* Despite being only 12% of the American population, Blacks comprise of 40% of the homeless population.
* One-third of the jail population is mentally disabled, and most jail populations consists of Blacks.
This is not a myth, but a harsh reality.
It’s time we stop saying “it’s not my problem, what do you expect me to do about it?” and instead ask how we can be part of the change. You see, all it takes is after-school programs that positively influence young urban children, particularly those who have no safe place to go after school, like the slums. Having church organizations as well as other non-profit agencies taking a stand and bring more public awareness to these issues in suitable forums is a great way to help achieve better mental health care amongst Blacks.
One of the biggest ways we can change the dismal future for mentally ill Blacks is to have more Black medical professionals. For those that aren’t Black in the health profession, they can bring better awareness in public forums as well as educate themselves on the culture differences in Black communities.