Lester Holloway, black information link (London), May 25, 2007
RACE EXPERTS hit the roof after an institution claimed figures showing Black people 18 times more likely to be mentally ill was an “under-estimate”.
Mental health professionals are outraged after the Institute of Psychiatry concluded there was no evidence of racism.
A report by the body claimed Africans and Caribbeans suffer from even higher rates of schizophrenia than statistics suggest.
Lee Jasper, chair of the African Caribbean Mental Health Commission, rejected the findings. ‘We are seeing racism on an industrial scale in the mental health service.
‘When you look at the staggering disproportionality of representation within the service then I think there is no other credible explanation to this problem than institutional racism.’
Professor Robin Murray from the Institute of Psychiatry has denied existence of racism in mental health for many years. Now he has released a report that fits his predetermined position.
Prof Murray’s views have been regarded as controversial, but now he has gained support from Black and Asian professionals who are joining him in denying racism.
Dr Shibalade Smith, who works in the Maudsley hospital, and Professor Swaran Singh both back Prof Murray.
Their opinions are at odds with official figures that show police twice as likely to refer African Caribbeans to the mental health system.
African and Caribbean groups were also up to 70% less likely to be referred for counseling by their GP, and 14% more likely to be turned away than white people when they ask for help from Mental Health services.
The Count Me In study last year also found that 88% of Black respondents had been forcibly restrained as opposed to 43% of white respondents.
Despite these figures, the Institute of Psychiatry ruled out racism as a cause, and instead blamed absent fathers, cannabis use and a traumatic upbringing—all factors which they say disproportionately affect Black communities.
Prof Murray said that psychiatrists were less likely to diagnose Black people with mental illness because they were afraid of being branded “racist”.
He also alleged that dangerous psychopaths like Christopher Clunis who killed Jayne Zito in 1992—were being released into the community because health professionals wanted to reduce the numbers of Black patients.
He said: ‘Psychiatrists are less likely to diagnose psychosis in somebody who is Black than white with the same symptoms.’
He said the causes of mental illness were “unemployment, living in the city, [being] separated from parents”, and believes migrant communities are naturally more prone to mental illness.
Dr Smith, whose patients are 77% Black, said she believed the causes were “poor schooling, troubled childhood [and] cannabis.”
She said: ‘There is no evidence Black patients are likely to get more medication. In fact you are twice as likely to get ECT [electric shock treatment] if you are white than if you are black.’
The Institute of Psychiatry base their findings on a series of “blind” tests where they presented images and imaginary case histories of black and white patients and asked professionals to make a diagnosis.
The findings are a major departure from thirty years of research which suggests that racial prejudices determine how professionals treat Black people with suspected mental disorders.
In 2004 a public inquiry led by former high court judge Sir John Blofeld found that David ‘Rocky’ Bennett had died of restraint in a psychiatric unit because of institutional racism.
BBC Newsnights’ Mark Easton publicised the Institute of Psychiatry research earlier this week but failed to offer any critical analysis of the study, accepting the results on face value.